§ As amended (by the Standing Committee), further considered.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
On behalf of my hon. friend the Member for Dundee, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in his name, to leave out the words "Without their actual fault or privity. "The object of this Amend-mend is to secure that the present liability as regards the dock authorities shall not be altered by the addition of these words. I quite understand that these words have been put in in, the case of the dock authorities so as to correspond with the same words in the Merchant Shipping Act as applied to the shipowner, and the object is to preserve-the law of liability in regard to dock authorities exactly as it is at the present moment. I move this amendment formally, but if the promoters are ready to accept the Amendment to be moved later on by my hon. friend the Member for Cork my objection to these words will be met. In the meantime I beg to move this Amendment.
In page 1, line 15, to leave out the words 'without their actual fault or privity.'"—(Mr. Caldwell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words, proposed to be loft out stand part of the Bill."
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)
said these particular words were necessary in order to establish the reciprocity between the shipowner and the dockowner which was contemplated by the Bill. If the dockowner was aware that the harbour was in a defective state, and he did. not remedy it, it was only reasonable that the common law of liability should be fully extended to him. He was glad to hear that the hon. Member 1227 did not intend to press his Amendment. In regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork, although they did not think it was altogether necessary, they were willing to accept it.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
said he thought there was more to be said in favour of this Amendment than had been stated by the hon. Member for Mid Lanark. When the Merchant Shipping Acts first embodied these words there was a very large ownership of ships either by individuals or by associations of individuals who were not registered as companies. That distinction existed in the case of docks, for some of them were owned by private individuals and some by public authorities. In the case of harbour boards, which were public authorities, the members of them had no personal interest in the concerns they managed. Those bodies must always act by their officers. The distinction which the clause would endeavour to set up between damage from negligence within the "fault or privity" of a dock authority and the result of negligence not within their privity was an entirely futile distinction, because a harbour or dock authority always acted through the advice of their harbour master, engineer, or other officer, and therefore any negligence would by law be imputed to the authority. He did not think that there was any real reciprocity between dock owners and shipowners established by this clause. The shipowner would practically always escape, because, in 999 cases out of 1,000, he would not be managing his own ship; but the dock authorities would always be liable, because they can only act through their officers, and the law would hold that the act of their officers was within their actual fault or privity, and they would be made liable. He should like to hear the views of the Solicitor General on the subject.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CARSON,) Dublin University
I certainly think that the words as they stand in the clause are absolutely necessary. The clause proposes to limit the liability of dock-owners and harbour commissioners as it is limited in the case of shipowners. It does not propose that where an accident occurs through actual fault or privity on the part of the dock owners or harbour commissioners they 1228 should be released from paying the penalties. That is exactly the same way as the law stands in regard to shipowners. The hon. and learned Member for Cork seems to think that the circumstances are such that the protection will be removed in all cases, but I think I can suggest to him an example where the Act, as it stands at present, would apply. Take, for instance, the case of a harbour board or dock company who have had before them a report from their officers of something faulty in the construction or arrangement of their docks. That would be held to be a matter in which the harbour board or the dock-owners had been informed, and if damage was done in consequence of this fault it would be held to be a case "within the actual fault or privity" of the authorities. In a case where a fault was brought to their notice, and they took no notice of it, they ought to be made liable. It is extremely essential that the words should stand as they are. I think there was a question as to whether it might be argued—though I do not think it could be argued successfully—that this clause creates a new liability, but that will be met by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork, which the promoters of this Bill will accept, and then the law as to the liability of dock and shipowners will be in the same position.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said the words in the clause had given rise to an apprehension that there would be an extension of liability, but he believed that the main thing was a fear that a new liability would be created. He gathered that those who were in charge of the Bill were willing to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork upon this point, and he was therefore inclined to take the responsibility of advising the hon. Member for Mid Lanark not to press this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
The lion-Member in charge of the Bill has spoken of the necessity of establishing reciprocity between the dock owner and the shipowner. In order to bring about that reciprocity I think the hon. Member will see that the Amendment I now move is 1229 absolutely necessary. As it stands this Bill is practically a Liverpool Bill.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
The hon. Member interrupts me because he does not know the sense in which I use that phrase. I do not mean it in the sense that Liverpool only will be protected, because I know that there are a great many large harbours besides Liverpool to which it will extend protection. I simply use the phrase as distinguishing harbours like Liverpool from harbours of a much smaller size, which will get no sort of protection from Clause 2. I quite agree that, in the case of harbours like Liverpool and Belfast, this clause will give ample protection, but the authorities at Cork Harbour will get no sort of protection from this clause. In these large ports the limitation which is proposed of £8 per ton on the tonnage of the largest ship entering the port is a very valuable provision. But lot us take the case of a small port like Cork. In Cork harbour we have sometimes some very large ships, and even the steamship "Oceanic" goes there, but such vessels only enter Cork harbour for the purpose of taking up mails and passengers. They do not ship cargo and make use of the harbour in the same sense as those vessels use the Liverpool harbour. If a vessel of that kind is injured what possible protection is it to Cork harbour to say you shall not be liable for injuries of that kind beyond £8 a ton? I understand that the case of Cork is parallel with the case of a great many small harbours in the United Kingdom. I think that establishes my point. If in the Liverpool docks an accident happens, or one of the sluice gates on the Manchester Ship Canal goes wrong, and a number of small vessels are injured in consequence, the dock or canal authorities will only be liable for damage at £8 per ton. In Cork harbour, however, we should be liable for the full amount of the actual injury incurred, and therefore this clause is absolutely no protection for Cork harbour. The hon. Gentleman opposite has spoken of reciprocity, and I invite him by this Amendment to give us reciprocity. The shipowner is only liable for £8 a ton in respect of the ship doing the injury, and we should be liable to the extent of £8 1230 per ton for the ships injured. In the case of small harbours like Cork and Dundee this is substantially no limitation whatever, and the state of things if this Bill passes will be that the shipowner is to be protected in this difficulty, and will only be liable for £8 per ton on the tonnage of the ship doing the injury, although the injury done may be enormously in excess of that amount, but if the dock authority is unfortunate enough to injure a number of small vessels, that authority will be liable for the full amount of the damage, and will not have any reference to the tonnage of the largest ship, entering the port. My Amendment would give protection here, because it would make the limit of the liability the same in both cases.
In page 1, line 19, to leave out from the words 'tonnage of,' to the word' power,' in line 24, inclusive, and insert the words 'such vessel or vessels,' instead thereof."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed "That the words from the words 'tonnage of,' to the word 'trading,' in line 22,. stand part of the Bill."
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
In, reply to the hon. and learned Member opposite as to whether this clause does establish that reciprocity between shipowners and dock-owners which we aim at, I would remind him that in case a shipowner becomes liable for damages in respect of a number of vessels, his liability is limited to £8 per ton upon the tonnage of his own vessel in respect of the aggregate damages to all the other vessels. Where the dock-owner, through whose negligence a number of. ships are damaged, is liable the same principle should apply, and the only question is as to what the amount of the liability shall be. The hon. Member has contended that a dock should be treated in the same way as a single ship; but that is impossible, because a dock or harbour is intended to accommodate a large number of ships, and therefore it would not be possible to treat a, dock as a single ship. The question as to what would be a fair basis of liability between shipowners and dock-owners has been very carefully considered, and after a discussion between the shipowners and the dock-owners it was agreed, that the maximum liability of 1231 dock-owners or harbour authorities with respect to shipping should be measured by a sum equal to £8 per ton for the largest ship which has entered the dock or harbour during the five years previous. We considered that to be a fair measure of liability on the part of the dock or harbour authorities in relation to shipping. They would then be protected in case a mishap occurs on a large scale by which a large number of vessels are damaged, for then the dock-owner would only be liable to the extent of, £8 a ton in respect of the aggregate damages. What shipowners require is to have a full indemnity in individual cases. If an accident occurs through some act of negligence they want to be able to recover in full, and in nine cases out of ten this clause enables that to be done. Take as an instance a ship of 1,000 tons. Suppose she is wrecked with her cargo, owing to the neglect of the dock authority. That ship with her cargo may be worth £30,000, but the amount recoverable under the Amendment of the hon. Member would only be about £8,000. With reference to what the hon. Member for Cork has said about this being a Liverpool Bill, that is not the case, as the Bill is the result of an agreement arrived at between the shipping associations and the principal dock and harbour authorities throughout the United Kingdom.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
I agree that all ports are not equally benefited by this Bill, but it is impossible that there can be any general rule which will work out the same in every case. All ports do benefit, but not to the same extent. In the case of Cork harbour, if a large steamer is lost through the negligence of the Cork harbour authorities this Bill places a limit to their liability. It is not possible to have a general rule which will work out the same in every case.
§ MR. CALDWELL
said he failed to see any reciprocity whatever in the clause as it now stood. The liability of shipowners was limited to £8 per ton in the event of their vessels damaging the docks—he meant £8 per ton on the tonnage of the vessel causing the mischief. But if, on 1232 the other hand, the dock authority caused damage to a vessel, its liability was not by any means limited to £8 per ton on the tonnage of that vessel, and in the case, say, of a vessel of 1,000 tons burthen the liability would not be limited to £8,000; it would be based on the tonnage not of the vessel injured, but of the largest vessel entering the dock during the preceding five years. Where, then, did the reciprocity come in? The tonnage of the vessels entering some ports might be comparatively small; but then, as the value of the cargo was included, a vessel of 1,000 tons register might easily prove to be worth £20,000 or £30,000, and if that ship and its cargo were sunk the responsibility of the dock authorities might practically go to the extent of £24,000, because on some previous occasion a vessel of 3,000 tons register had happened to call at that particular port. That showed the difficulty of treating a dock company on the same lines as a ship. The limit of £8 per ton was agreed to in the case of a ship because it was realised that a vessel was engaged in a more or less hazardous enterprise, and had to run risks which were unavoidable. But the case of a dock authority was very different. It had no difficulties of navigation to deal with, and, to his mind, there was no reason why there should be any limit at all. The fact was, a bargain appeared to have been struck between the dock authorities on the one hand and the shipowners on the other. They had come to an agreement to limit their respective liabilities, and now this Bill was being forced through the House of Commons on a Wednesday afternoon, when there was nobody present interested in it except the dock authorities and the shipowners. He had a strong objection to Bills going through the House in that way. He thought it would be better to delete this clause altogether. There could not be said to be reciprocity when the shipowner's liability was limited to £8 per ton in the event of his vessel damaging the dock, while the dock authority's liability, on the other hand, extended to £8 per ton not merely on the vesse damaged, but on the largest vessel that happened to have entered the dock during the preceding five years.
*MR. WARE (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
This Amendment is pressed in the interest of the dock-owners. It is very 1233 much easier to argue that a shipowner is entitled to a limit of liability than it is that a dock-owner should have any such limit granted him. I remember that in the debate on the Second Reading on this Bill the hon. and learned Attorney General said the subject of limiting the liability of shipowners was well worth discussion, and he did not think there was any real answer to their claim to such a limit. The problem now is to give the dock-owners also a limit, and it seems to me that the terms in which the Amendment has been moved and supported by hon. Members show that there is a singular confusion of ideas with regard to the limit of liability. That limit is fixed upon the assumed value of the thing which does the injury, not of the thing to which the injury is done. If it is a ship that causes the injury its liability is fixed at £8 per ton, that being for that purpose assumed to be the value of the ship, but should it be the dock which is responsible for the mischief to the ship then the problem arises, what should be the limit of liability of the dock authority? You have to find, if you apply the same principle, not the value of the ship or ships injured by the neglect of the dock authorities, but some value which can be assumed to be the value of the dock for the purpose of assessing the dock-owner's liability. At the present moment the dock-owner has unlimited liability. You cannot base the limit of the dock's liability upon the value of the vessel which the dock has injured. Shipowners are most anxious to arrive at some limit of liability on the part of the dock-owner, and they have therefore agreed that the assumed value of the dock shall be based upon he tonnage of the largest ship entering during the preceding five years. I admit that that is not logical, but then it is impossible to put the matter on any logical basis. We must, however, have some basis for the valuation of the dock, and, if this is not a very favourable arrangement for the dock authorities, I am very greatly mistaken. The provision is one from which the dock authorities have everything to gain and nothing to lose. I hope, therefore, the House will see fit to accept the limit proposed by the clause as it stands, as it embodies a compromise made between the different interests who alone will be affected.
§ *MR. PROVAND (Glasgow, Blackfriars)
agreed with the last speaker that this provision of the Bill was in the nature of a compromise and had no logical basis. Undoubtedly the value of a dock was enormously greater than that of a ship. Take the case of the Liverpool Docks. He believed their capital value stood in the company's books at eighteen millions sterling, and a vessel damaged in entering them would probably not be worth a thirtieth or fortieth part of that sum. That showed the enormous difference between the value of a dock and the value of a vessel; and, although the compromise which had been arrived at would no doubt act unequally, it was impossible to have any scheme of arriving at a valuation which would not also have unequal operation. Still he contended that the compromise to which his hon. and learned friend objected was bettor than the position in which the dock authorities stood at the present moment, of having an unlimited liability. If his hon. and learned friend could suggest any other method which would be fair all round, the House, no doubt, would gladly consider it; but, as he believed the clause as it now stood would be a welcome relief to both shipowners and dock authorities, he hoped that the Amendment would be withdrawn.
§ MR. PLATT-HIGGINS (Salford, N.)
said that, speaking on behalf of the Manchester Ship Canal Company, he wished to point out that they had a deep interest in this matter. The opposition to this clause came from Queenstown. He was quite prepared to admit that his hon. and learned friend was justified in standing up for the interests of that port. But he thought he might fairly appeal to him to consider that there were not other interests which required safeguarding. So far as Manchester was concerned he had no authority to say that the carrying of the Amendment would wreck the Bill, but he would assert most distinctly that Manchester would withdraw its support from the Bill, and that, he thought, was a matter worthy of very serious consideration. He would ask the hon. and learned Member to consider if the Bill after all, was not more in the interests of Queenstown than the law as it at present stood. he hoped that, having regard to the interests of the Manchester Ship 1235 Canal, the hon. and learned Member would withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said there was undoubtedly a great difference between England and Ireland with regard to port and harbour authorities, and there was a strong feeling in a number of Irish ports that the shipowners in the House, who constituted a very powerful interest —more powerful, indeed, than the railway interest, because they worked more unitedly—had been able to prevent the Irish port authorities having so good a show as they were entitled to. The English port authorities, in his opinion, had, in coming to an agreement on this Bill, entirely omitted to take cognisance of the poorer ports in Ireland. No doubt the Bill would be a great advantage to such places as Liverpool, but it should be remembered that the Irish ports were largely ports of call, and did not get the benefit from cargoes and passengers which the English ports reaped. He quite accepted the view of the last speaker that the Manchester Ship Canal Company deserved consideration. But the point was whether that consideration ought not to be given by means of a private Bill, in view of the exceptional position of that undertaking. Was it fair that they should be asked to legislate for the whole country on the basis of an exceptional undertaking like the Manchester Ship Canal, which had special difficulties in the shape of locks, etc.? He hoped they would have some statement of the views of the Government. The Solicitor General should remember that in this matter he represented both England and Ireland, and although it had been said that Dublin sanctioned this Bill, it was clear that Cork and Belfast were opposed to it.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
The points raised by the hon. and learned Member have been very fully considered by the Board of Trade and by the Government Departments concerned in the Bill. Certainly the proposal to which exception is taken is not a logical or an ideal proposal. The Board of Trade, however, have endeavoured to obtain as far as possible the views of the great shipowners and associations represented, and in the same way they have the opinion of the dock-owners that the proposal as to limitation is the only one they can agree 1236 upon, and it has been embodied in the Bill. As regarded harbours like Cork, with which I am somewhat familiar, and! some harbours in this country, I fully concede that the proposal contained in the Bill does not give the same amount of relief as is given to larger harbours, but that is not saying that they get no relief. When we speak of reciprocity, we cannot give the same benefit in all cases. The Bill as it stands does deal in all cases with limitation, and if it is abandoned or not passed the advantage which would be conferred under limited liability will be lost. If the Bill is not passed there will be no limitation at all. Under the circumstances, as this is a matter mainly concerning ship-owners and dock-owners, it seems reasonable that they should put their heads together and try if some reasonable way cannot be found to bring about a limitation of liability. I hope the Amendment, therefore, will not be pressed.
SIR WILLIAM HOULDSWQRTH (Manchester, N.W.)
I also trust that the hon. and learned Member opposite will not press this Amendment. I should like to remind him that in this Bill as originally introduced there was no protection whatever for the dock authority; in fact, the limitation of liability under it would have been against the dock-owning authorities. Under these circumstances I ventured, on the Second Reading, to oppose the Bill, and the promoters of it at once agreed to consider the question of reciprocity. This clause is the result of that consideration. We must all realise that the standard measure of limitation of liability is illogical. It is an imaginary standard, and to a great extent the hon. Member for Mid Lanark is quite right in saying that there is no absolute reciprocity. It was necessary, however, that some kind of compromise should be arrived at, and I believe that on the whole this clause represents the most, satisfactory form. Cork harbour may not receive the same amount of protection as is given to other places, but undoubtedly this Bill will place it in a better position than it stands in under the present law. Under these circumstances I hope the hon. Gentleman opposite will see that every effort has been made to arrive at a fair arrangement, and I trust, therefore, he will not press his Amendment.
MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
I quite agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has introduced this Amendment, but in the Standing Committee we discussed practically the same Amendment, with the result that we arrived at the best conclusion we could under the circumstances. I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that as things stand the liability is not accurately measured, but there were difficulties on both sides. The representatives of port and dock boards all over the country met and considered this question, and arrived at what they conceived to be the best possible solution. If we endeavour to raise fresh discussion now I am afraid the result will be that we will not get the Bill at all. I therefore appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman to allow the Bill to stand as it is, because we have practically agreed as to what can be done under the circumstances.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
In deference to the appeal which has been made I will ask leave to withdraw this Amendment. I protest against the manner in which the Government have treated foreign countries as compared with the manner in which they have treated Ireland. In asking leave to withdraw the Amendment I beg to give notice that on a subsequent Amendment I will again raise the question of the unfair treatment meted out to the port of Cork under this Bill.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
This is not a Government Bill. It is a measure which has been brought forward by the shipowners and the dock-owners, and if an Amendment had been agreed to by both sides the Government would not depart from their attitude of agreement with what was acceptable to all parties concerned.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
On behalf of the hon. Member for Linlithgow I beg to move the Amendment standing in his name, which I may say has been agreed to by all the parties to this Bill. I will briefly state to the House the object of this Amendment. As the Bill was 1238 brought in the liability of the harbour or conservancy authority might extend to an amount not exceeding £6 per ton of the tonnage of the largest registered British ship which within a period of five years previous to the damage had been "within" the area over which the authority exercised any power. It was pointed out when the Bill came before the Standing Committee on Law that the word "within" might have the effect of admitting within the clause vessels which simply passed through the area of the port or entered it for shelter, and it was agreed, and I think correctly, that it would not be right that the maximum liability of the port should be fixed in relation to vessels which had entered it for a temporary purpose in the course of a voyage elsewhere. To meet that view the words "trading to or from" were suggested on the spur of the moment as indicating the description of vessel to which the clause would apply. After careful consideration it was found that these words were also open to objection. One objection was that they might not have the effect intended, because it might be argued that a vessel which passed through the area of a port was "trading to or from" that port and might consequently come within the clause. Let us take a concrete case. Suppose a vessel from Glasgow entered Greenock for shelter it might be held that that vessel was "trading to or from" the area of the latter port. Then again the word "trading" is a very ambiguous term and would exclude from the scope of the clause ships in graving docks, although it is intended that the Bill should apply to them. Suppose a ship in a graving dock were damaged, if these words were retained there would be no maximum liability at all, because the vessel could not be said to be "trading to or from" the port. After consideration it was considered better to restore the Bill to its original form, so as to include all vessels within the area of a port and then to add an Amendment taking out those vessels to which the clause was not intended to apply. I hope the Amendment will be accepted.
In Clause 2, page 1, line 22, to leave out the words 'trading to or 'from' in order to insert the word 'within.'" — [Mr. Charles McArthur.)
§ Question proposed "That the words 'trading to or from' stand part of the clause."
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
Before this Amendment is accepted, I wish to be satisfied that it is not a further assault on the position of Cork Harbour. As the hon. Gentleman explained it, I do not think any exception can be taken to it, but when we consider the change in the wording it appears to me that it might give rise to very great difficulty. As I understand it, the effect of the Amendment is this. As the clause left the Standing Committee, the limit of liability was based on the largest vessel "trading to or from" the port. Under the Amendment now proposed the limit of liability is to be based on the tonnage of the largest vessel which has been "within" the port during the preceding five years, with certain qualifications pointed out in a further Amendment. I have in my mind the case of the ocean liners calling at Cork. They do not represent the normal shipping of the port at all; they simply call to pick up passengers and mails, but the bulk of their passengers and cargo are taken on at Liverpool. As this clause originally stood, T think it might fairly be argued that these vessels were not "trading to or from" the port of Cork, but if the Amendment now proposed is accepter, any vessel which has been within the area of the harbour, with the limitations mentioned in the next Amendment, would come within the scope of the clause. The hon. Member has very carefully protected the interests of his own port in the Amendment which he has introduced; perhaps, I ought not to say his own port, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with Leith, but at any rate the ports where shipbuilding is carried on and graving docks exist are very carefully protected by the Amendment of the hon. Member. I think I have proved that the Amendment would be a distinct assault on the interests of Cork harbour, which I represent, and I shall certainly oppose it unless I get some pledge from the promoters of the Bill to extend the qualifications set forth in the second Amendment by the addition of such words as "or that it has unloaded or loaded mails or passengers 1240 within that area." I think it is plain that injury will otherwise be inflicted on the port which I represent. The limit of the liability of the port should be its normal shipping, such as ships loading or unloading cargo, but as the Amendment stands large Atlantic liners which cannot in any way be said to trade to or from the port would be included.
§ MR. WARR
I am not at all sure that the words "trading to or from" which it is proposed to omit would not be held to include Atlantic liners calling at a port to land mails and passengers. The very effect of this Amendment is to protect the port of Cork from liability to the danger which the hon. and learned Member has spoken of. The object of the second Amendment is that the liability of the port shall be measured by the vessels which are really within the port, not by the vessels which call at it.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I do not think that the Amendment suggested, coupled with the Amendment that follows, really gives the port of Cork the relief which the hon. Member has just suggested. The words "trading to or from" might, no doubt, be held to include the "Oceanic," supposing it landed mails, and therefore that vessel might be held to be the measure of the liability of the port. The second Amendment only refers to vessels which have entered a port for safety or have only passed through, which is a very different thing from a vessel entering a harbour such as Cork to land passengers and mails. Such a vessel is not taking shelter, and it is doing something more than "passing through." This limitation might apply to wide areas, such as Glasgow or Leith, but it certainly would not help Cork in any way. There would, of course, be the chance of the words "trading to or from" being interpreted as the hon. Member suggests, but they are obviously open to a great deal of discussion.
§ MR. PLATT-HIGGINS
I am quite sure nothing is further from the minds of the promoters of this Bill than to make any attack on Cork harbour. I think the hon. Member for Cork put his case a little too high. He said that the large 1241 ocean liners calling at the port of Cork are rather a nuisance than otherwise.
§ MR. PLATT-HIGGINS
I consider that these ships confer a certain amount of advantage on Cork, and I would be sorry to see them withdrawn. I hope the hon. Member will put one thing against the other, and that when we release him from any idea of thinking that these liners are a nuisance he will release us of any idea of intending to make an attack on Cork.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Surely it is legitimate that we should put forward local points as they strike us. That is no justification for the hon. Member saying that we regard these ocean liners as a nuisance. We got them after a struggle of many years, and we have built at enormous cost facilities for them, but at the same time we do not want to be in the position in which Liverpool will be under this Bill. Ought Cork to be placed in the same position as Liverpool, which has all the advantage of the initiation of this Atlantic cargo and passenger trade, whereas only a score or two of passengers and a few bags of mails are put off at Queenstown? We are within our rights in pressing the case of Cork, and in taking steps to prevent the Cork Harbour authorities being one rated in the same way as the harbour authorities at Liverpool, Hull, and other great ports. We have put our case in a moderate form, and in view of our anxiety that some compromise should be arrived at, I think our action should not be treated almost as if it were an act of treason.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
I should like to suggest to the hon. and learned Member for Cork that the words proposed in the Amendment are really better than the words in the Bill from his point of view. The words in the Bill are "trading to or from," and he seemed to think that it was perfectly clear that the "Oceanic" or any other Atlantic liner calling at Cork harbour for the purpose of taking off passengers and mails would not be held to be trading to or from that 1242 port. I should be inclined to take the opposite view. It certainly would appear to mo to be very difficult to draw distinction between a port where passengers and mails are embarked and the ultimate port of call. If that were held to be trading, then the words in the Bill would bring these Atlantic liners within its scope. Then as regards the words in the Amendment, "passed through such area on a voyage between two places," I do not in the least say that it is clear that they would include Atlantic liners under the circumstances mentioned, but I think they are quite as good as the words in the Bill. I have not made these obervations in any hostility to Cork. For my own part, I should be very glad to see Cork having all possible advantages, but I do not think that anything would be gained by refusing to pass the Amendment.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
The specific question is, I understand, whether, under the words now proposed to be inserted, the limit of liability in the case of Cork would apply to the Atlantic liners. Cork is no more protected by the words of the Amendment than it is by the words in the Bill. T would call the attention of the promoters of this Bill to the fact that at regards these words and other words to which exception has been taken, opposition and criticism have come from Scotch and Irish Members. The plain inference to be drawn from that is that the promoters of the Bill would be wise if they consented to insert a clause that the Act should not apply to Scotland or Ireland. If they assented to that, all opposition would be withdrawn.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
I now beg to move the second Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Linlithgow, up to and including the word "area" in the fifth line, and excluding the words "or that it has been fitted out, ballasted, or repaired within that area." The first 1243 part of the Amendment was that put down by the hon. Member for Linlithgow, and it was accepted on behalf of the shipping and docks representatives. The words which [have omitted appeared on the Paper for the first time this morning, and I have since received a communication from the hon. Member for Linlithgow, stating that he did not press for the inclusion of these words, and asking me to move the Amendment without them. The Amendment which I now beg to move excepts vessels which have only passed through the area or have put in for shelter. There appears to be no reason why an exception should be made in the case of vessels which have been fitted out, ballasted, or repaired within the area. They pay dues to the port, and there is no reason why the port authorities should repudiate their obligation in regard to them. A further reason is that if these vessels were excluded, in the event of an accident the amount which would be recoverable would be altogether out of proportion to the value of the vessel. Take the case of a large Canard steamer that may be worth £300,000 or £400,000. The Bill as it stands proposes to reduce the maximum liability from that amount to £8 per ton on 14,000 tons, or £112,000. That is a very great concession. Shipowners will not assent to such vessels being further exempted, and the majority of the dock authorities do not wish them to be so exempted.
In Clause 2, page 1, line 24, after the word 'power' to insert the words 'A ship shall not be deemed to have been within the area over which a harbour authority or a conservancy authority performs any duty, or exercises any powers, by reason only that it has taken shelter within or passed through such area on a voyage between two places both situate outside that area.' "—(Mr. Charles McArtthur.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I beg to move to add the following words, "or that it has loaded or unloaded mails or passengers within that area." I think I am justified in saying that as the Bill now stands it cuts against the port I represent and other small ports in Ireland. I began by describing this Bill as a Liverpool Bill. It is admitted that the Bill 1244 originated in the peculiar position of Liverpool, and in the special liabilities which have arisen in connection with the Manchester Ship Canal. I have not the smallest desire that that great commercial concern should not get from this House the treatment that it deserves, but I think it is unfair to deal with small ports on a basis specially suitable to the Manchester Ship Canal. It is only in the case of the; Manchester Ship Canal that we can even imagine such serious accidents as are contemplated in this Bill. It would be quite impossible that they could, occur in, any-ordinary dock. When, therefore, it is proposed to change the whole shipping law of the United Kingdom, it is unfair. that no distinction is made between small, ports in Ireland and ports such as Liverpool and Hull. My proposal is that the port of Cork, should not be treated under this Bill as if it were the port of Liverpool. That is all I ask. The hon. Member opposite ventured, to say that I referred to these ocean steamers calling at. Cork as a nuisance. That is not our view. We are not so, absurd. We are delighted, that they call at the port, and we benefit from them, in. many directions, and I must proceed to argue my case on the basis that Cork does benefit by these steamers calling at the port. But can anyone say that the port of Cork, benefits by these liners in the same way as Liverpool benefits? Such a statement would, be absurd; and accordingly; while these provisions may be perfectly fair to the port of Liverpool and to. other large, ports,. they are not fair in the case of Cork, because the Atlantic liners do not use that port as they use Liverpool, and only confer upon Cork a fraction, of the benefit they confer on Liverpool. I suggest that when we are devising this measure of. liability, and, are founding it upon the traffic of a port and the ships using that port, we should take as the measure the normal traffic of the port. In the case of. Cork the liners do not even, come alongside the quay, and very often do not come inside the harbour at all, in many cases taking passengers and mails from a tender outside the limits of the harbour. I thought it would be at least arguable that these liners were not trading to or from the port of Cork. I may be wrong, but I do not know whether it would be similarly arguable that, in the words of this Amendment, they are merely passing, through on a voyage between. New York 1245 and Liverpool. Perhaps that would be arguable also. We are now passing an Act which will settle the measure of the liability of Cork on the basis of these ocean liners, whereas it ought to be measured by the vessels using the port.
After the words last inserted, to add the words 'or that it has loaded or unloaded mails or passengers within that area.'"— (Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. PROVAND
I think it has been tried to be shown in this debate that the larger ports in England and Scotland are being treated in this Bill with exceptional favour as compared with smaller ports, and especially as compared with the port of Cork which my hon. friend represents. I think that is not taking a fair view of this Bill. The Bill is the best compromise that could be arrived at by those who considered it. The hon. and learned Member says that Cork should have separate treatment, because the Atlantic liners only call there, and on many occasions do not enter the port at all. I have passed the port of Queenstown some thirty or forty times. Coming East the steamers do not enter the port, but going West they usually, although not invariably, enter it. Then he says that the vessels do not go alongside a wharf, and only discharge mails and passengers, because there is no cargo to be shipped or discharged, but, if cargo offered, the case would be different. The argument put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Cork is, that because the large steamers require very little service in the port of Cork, that therefore it should be exempt from the provisions of the Bill. But the harbour authorities benefit by the dues which these vessels pay. The Bill is a fair compromise, and makes dock owners liable on the basis of the tonnage of the largest vessel which has been within their area, although the tonnage of the vessels usually trading to the port may be of far less tonnage. And this applies to Glasgow. Vessels as large as the "Oceanic" are built in Glasgow, and the harbour authorities receive nothing from them except small dues 1246 paid once only, and when they leave, after being fitted for sea, they may never be seen in Glasgow again. Nevertheless the largest of these vessels will, under this Bill, be the measure of liability of the harbour authorities in Glasgow. The Liverpool and New York liners call at Cork harbour three or four times a week, and every one of them pays harbour dues to the port; but the vessels built in Glasgow to which I have referred pay no dues except once, and are three times the tonnage of the average vessel trading to that port. In this respect the Bill would result in unfairness in the case of Glasgow, one of the largest ports in the country, just as it might be said that it would create unfairness in the case of Cork and other small ports. I do not see how this is to be avoided. The terms were agreed on by the Committee which considered the Bill, and the hon. Member for the St. Patrick Division told us that they could not arrive at any better compromise. If this Amendment is accepted, it will give to Cork dockowners an exemption from the terms settled by the Committee as reasonable and fair to all dockowners. Glasgow, Belfast, and other ports might claim exemption on similar grounds.
§ MR. CALDWELL
I think the pro-motors of the Bill might very well accept the Amendment. We know very well that this Bill has been brought forward in the interests and for the benefit of the shipowners. It confers many advantages on them, and I think that they ought to accept what everyone must consider to be a very reasonable Amendment on behalf of the port of Cork. It is admitted that there is no logical reason or principle for the standard of liability which the Bill sets up as the maximum, but it has been pointed out that the liability in the case of Cork will be rather different from the liability in the case of large ports such as Liverpool or Glasgow. They have large vessels, but in Cork the liners make a merely incidental call to take up passengers and mails, without practically using the harbour in any way whatever. So far as the interests of Liverpool, Glasgow, and Leith are concerned it cannot make the smallest difference whether this Amendment is passed or not. 1247 It does not affect any harbour in Scotland or England one iota, and they will get the full benefit of the Amendment which has been adopted. What is now asked is that vessels which merely call to take in passengers and mails should not be taken into consideration when estimating the maximum liability. The promoters object to this, but do they wish that the port of Cork should be liable for a sum equal to the value of an Atlantic liner? Notoriously the harbour of Cork is used for local purposes, and yet it is now proposed to establish a law whereby the largest vessel calling at that port should be the measure of its maximum liability. Suppose a vessel of 1,000 tons were injured in Cork harbour, the liability of the authorities would not be £8,000, but would be an amount equal to eight times the tonnage of the largest vessel which had called at Cork during the preceding five years. Such a disparity is obviously absurd. It is admitted that there is no reason or principle in such a measure of liability. It is merely a fictitious standard, and I cannot see why the promoters, having got everything they wanted, should higgle about this Amendment, which really does not concern them.
§ MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
We object to this Amendment on principle, as well as because of the results that would follow from it. We see no reason whatever to discriminate between a vessel carrying passengers and mails and any other trading vessel, and we see no reason why a port should repudiate its responsibility in regard to such a vessel. The case of the "Oceanic" has been alluded to. Suppose that the "Oceanic" was damaged or sunk in Cork harbour, the value of the vessel and cargo would probably amount to about a million, and under the existing law the harbour authorities would be liable to that extent. By this clause it is proposed to reduce the liability in such a case from £1,000,000 to £8 per ton on 17,000 tons, or £136,000. The hon. and learned Member wants something more than that. He wants the liability of the port to be limited to £8 per ton on the largest vessel trading to Cork in the ordinary way, the tonnage of which might be 2,000 tons, and this would reduce the maximum liability of the port in respect; of the "Oceanic" to £16,000. That is a proposition which seems to me to be quite out of the question, and cer- 1248 tainly one which the shipowners will not accept. I venture to think if it were inserted in the Bill it would work in an exceedingly detrimental manner.
I do not agree with the hon. Member who has just spoken. This is a shipowners' Bill, and the port and dock authorities have as far as possible endeavoured to meet them. The exception proposed with regard to Cork is to my mind perfectly natural, and I hold that Cork is entitled to exceptional treatment. I trust the promoters of this Bill will not put us to the trouble of dividing the House, and I hope they will meet us in that spirit of compromise which enabled the Bill to pass through the Standing Committee. The hon. Gentleman opposite said that the Irish Members looked upon the calling of the Atlantic steamers at Queenstown as a nuisance. That is not so; quite the contrary is the fact, and I repudiate that statement, because we have done everything we could by railway-facilities and in other ways to give the Atlantic liners every convenience. I hope that this Amendment will be accepted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill that his speech was against his own Amendment? His Amendment was to-exempt from the provisions of this Bill vessels which had been fitted out or ballasted.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member in, moving his Amendment expressly stated that he would not move those words, and I accordingly omitted them in putting; the question.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I did not notice that, Mr. Speaker; but even then the hon. Member has removed from the Amendment exceptions which he himself thought desirable.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
May I repeat what I have already said— namely, that I was desired by the hon. Member for Linlithgow to move the Amendment without these words.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
No doubt the hon. Member has probably been squeezed by the shipowners, but we now know what his mind was. He desired not merely shelter, but also ballast and repair. 1249 The shipowners have driven him out of that position, and we now have it that ships coming in for ballast or repair are not to be excepted. I respecfully submit that the shipowners of the country are not to come here on a Wednesday afternoon and put a pistol to our heads and say, "You must take this Bill as we present it; we will give no concessions, and have no regard to local ports, no matter how injuriously this Bill will affect them." We have made enormous concessions to the shipowners, and they might take up some position of compromise. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Linlith-gow is now limited to the pure question of a ship having been "within" the area, the provisions as to shelter, ballast, and repair being struck out. But when a ship calls and drops a bag of maize, the liability of the port is raised from the normal £10,000 to a million, and the shipowners say "We will make no further concessions; we are shipowners, and you are only the port authority." This is a port authority with a very small revenue, and already with enormous liabilities. It conducts its operations unselfishly, having nothing to gain from any one of them. The shipowners, who are making millions of money, say to the port authority, "You must undertake this enormous liability, because our ships drop a few bags of maize occasionally." Is that a proper position to take up? It has been admitted in this House from the very start that this Bill cannot be defended on grounds of abstract logic, and all we ask is that this port, which is poor compared with Liverpool or Glasgow, should not be burdened with this tremendous liability because these ships call once a week on the way to or from New York and drop a few bags of maize, or take up a few emigrant passengers. I would hope that, the Bill having got to this point, the Government will see their way to recommend to the hon. Gentleman behind them to facilitate the passing of the Bill by accepting this proposal. I am driven to the view of the hon. Member for Dundee, who stated very fairly that the case of the Scotch and Irish ports is exceptional, and that these ports should be exempted from this provision of the Bill. I do not believe myself that if the Bill passes into law the Scotch and Irish ports will gain much; but I can quite see that the small ports will be landed in greater responsibility than is their due. The principle of collaboration supposed 1250 to be contained in the Bill between merchant shippers and the ports has not been fairly carried out in the measure. The President of the Board of Trade should be asked what is his position in this matter, but unfortunately the Solicitor General is the only representative of the Government present. I can quite feel that the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University must, as Solicitor General for England, look at this question, affecting the country in which he was born and bred, from an English point of view. His breast must be torn by conflicting emotions in regard to the case of England and that of Ireland. Officially, I will not say financially, he is bound to protect the shipping interests; and it appeal's to me, as there is no other gentleman connected with the Government on the Treasury Bench, that the right hon. Gentleman would be relieved to a certain extent if he had the assistance of the President of the Board of Trade in a matter of this kind. I will not move the adjournment of the debate, but I think we have arrived at a position of affairs when his presence is most desirable. If the Solicitor General for England takes up the position that we have right on our side, we would not need the assistance of a higher authority; but if he is precluded from expressing an opinion favourable to our views, we are entitled to the presence of other members of the Cabinet. For the moment, I suggest that this is a case when the matter should be considered at a future date. At any rate we would like to know the opinion of the Government upon it.
§ *SIR CHARLES CAYZER (Barrow-in-Furness)
Although I do not altogether agree with all that the hon. and learned Member for Cork has said about shipowners, I admit he has some grounds for his Amendment, and I should like to appeal to the hon. Member in charge of the Bill not to press his opposition to the particular grievance in regard to this matter. The port of Cork is situated very differently from other ports, and if the Amendment proposed were accepted, I think it would apply to that port alone. It has been said that it would apply to South-hampton; but I do not think so, for there the ships take in cargo. I should be sorry that the Bill should be talked out if this Amendment were not accepted. I think 1251 I express the opinion of the general body of the shipowners and dock-owners of this country, that they are desirous of having this Bill, which gives them advantages they do not at present possess. It appears to me that the great objectors to the Amendment are the owners of the large Atlantic liners running to and from Liverpool; but even if the Amendment were accepted they would receive many advantages if the Bill passed. I therefore appeal to the hon. Member who has charge of the Bill to accept the Amendment, but if it is pressed to a division I shall vote for it.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
As one of the Members connected with shipping, although my name is not on the Bill, I rise to suggest to the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool, in charge of the Bill, that this additional Amendment should be accepted. The Bill, although not altogether logical, is a compromise which has been arranged between the harbour authorities and the shipowners, and will ease the mind of the shipowners, because, although it may not be known to many Members of the House, accidents have occurred in the Manchester Ship Canal, for instance, and elsewhere, and have caused very serious loss to the shipowners. I think that hon. Members below the gangway have treated the Bill, on the whole, very fairly. Personally, I think the Amendment is reasonable, and I cordially support it.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
If I may venture to tender advice to the hon. Member for the Exchange Division, I think he would be well advised to accept the Amendment. It appears to me that there is real substantial ground for the exemption of Cork, because the limitation of liability of dock-owners is fixed in respect of the duty to provide accommodation in the docks. But this is a question not of the vessels going into dock, but of the vessels lying out in the stream. The reason for imposing liability here is much less, because the harbour authority does not give dock accommodation for these large vessels, which only come into the harbour to drop mails and a few bags of maize. There are other considerations 1252 which would make it obvious why the hon. Gentleman should accept the Amendment.
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
If the hon. Member merely means that the Amendment applies only to Cork, which is an intermediate stage, and not a port of destination, the question is very much narrower than appears at first sight. Although the Government take no part in the Bill, so far as I am personally concerned, I would vote for the Amendment as a proper one, if it goes to a division.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
I have put down an Amendment on the Paper to leave out Sub-section 3. I must ask the House to allow me to read Sub-section 3—Subsection 3 of the said Section 503 shall apply to this section as if the words 'owners of every sea-going ship or share thereof,' included a harbour authority and a conservancy authority, and the owner of a canal or of a dock.Now, the sub-section of the Act of 1894, which is to be applied to this sub-section, is in these words—The owner of every sea-going ship or share therein shall be liable in respect of every such loss of life, personal injury, loss of or damage to vessels, goods, merchandise, or things as aforesaid arising on distinct occasions to the same extent as if no other loss, injury, or damage had arisen.Now, I ask any hon. Gentleman who has heard me whether he knows in the least the effect of these words? It seems to me that this is one of the most vicious cases of draughtsmanship by reference. We all know what abuses have arisen from this draughtsmanship. Some of us who have been behind the scenes know the history of it. The real reason is that it was a device resorted to by the Treasury draughtsman in order to get behind the intelligence of the House of Commons because of organised obstruction. But we have ceased to know what organised obstruction is in this House, and whatever ground the Treasury draughtsman may have had for adopting this course, I deny that it is available to the draughtsman of a private Bill. I do not know whether this sub-section was 1253 originated in the Standing Committee or not. I have pointed out that this new subsection, in itself obscure, contains almost as many words as the original sub-section to which it refers. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman who is in charge of the Bill, if he wishes to include this subsection in his measure, to write out in plain English what it is that it means. Let him tell us what he means to legislate about, and let us know what we are doing. He takes in an extremely difficult subsection from an Act not before the House and applies it as if the words "owner of a ship" included the "owner of a dock." I do not presume to say what the result of this sub-section would be, and I believe it would require a great deal of study to say what it would be. I do submit that this is not a proper, or even a decent way of legislating on this important matter. The hon. Member must know what is the effect intended by these words, and my appeal is that he should withdraw them now and formulate a sentence just as if the sub-section in the old Act did not exist at all. He can do it now, or do it at some later stage of the Bill, as the Bill could easily be recommitted. I have another objection suggested to me by a harbour authority which is apprehensive that this Sub-section 3 imposes on harbour authorities a liability which by the present law does not exist. It is extremely difficult to come to any conclusion on the matter, but having regard to the Amendment which has just been passed I think the point ceases to have any importance, and I am not disposed to insist on it. But on the other point, that we ought to have the intention of the Legislature put in plain terms, the hon. Gentleman should give us the direct result which he wishes to produce. I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.
In Clause 2, page 2, line 4, to leave out Sub-section (3)."—(Mr. Edmund Robertson.)
§ Question proposed, "That Sub-section 3 stand part of the clause."
§ SIR EDWARD CARSON
This Amendment is one of a very technical character, and proposes to leave out Sub-section 3. I quite agree with what my hon. and learned friend says, that the original subsection is very difficult to apply to the 1254 case of both a ship and a dock. I think it is quite plain that the object was to enact that a dock company should not be allowed to limit its liability in the case of two accidents occurring from the same cause, as if it were all one accident. I would suggest to my hon. friend who is in charge of the Bill that as regards a dock that question could seldom or ever arise, for it could never be argued that it would be a continuing wrong on the part of the dock-owner. I would suggest to him whether, in his discretion, it would not be better to accept the Amendment.
§ *MR. CHARLES McARTHUR
The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Law. The object of the subsection was to put the position of the dock-owners and shipowners on the same footing. I do not myself see the difficulty of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, but, having regard to the views of the right hon. the Solicitor General, I am quite willing, on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, to withdraw the subsection.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I beg to move, as a separate clause at the end of Sub-section 6:—Provided that nothing in this section shall impose any liability in respect of any such loss or damage on any such owners or authority in any case where no such liability would have existed if this Act had not passed.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.