HC Deb 03 April 1903 vol 120 cc1030-83


Order for Second Reading read.

MR. CHARLES MCARTHUR (Liverpool Exchange)

said the object of this Bill was to effect an important and much needed reform in the lighthouses of the United Kingdom. It proposed to transfer the whole administration of lighthouses, buoys, and beacons from the existing authorities to the Board of Trade, and to create a Committee representative of shipping and trade interests to assist the Board of Trade in such administration. Accordingly light dues were abolished, and, of course, in that case it was necessary as an incidental provision to provide for the payment of the charges for the light service out of the public revenue. It was therefore proposed to constitute representative Committees, representing the shipping trade and navigation to advise the Board of Trade in regard to the matters falling under their cognisance. He wished to point out that the powers of these Committees were to be advisory only, and they would not interfere with the discretion of the Board of Trade, and if the Board of Trade preferred to manage the light service without the assistance of any such Committees, it was not the intention of the promoters of this Bill to press it upon the Board of Trade. They simply wished this to go forward as an expression of the willingness of the commercial shipping interests to assist the Board of Trade in every way possible. It was necessary for him to show to the House why the Board of Trade was the best substitute for the existing system. He would not weary the House with technicalities, and he would compress his remarks within as small limits as the case would permit. What was the existing system? There were three lighthouse boards, one for England, another for Scotland, and a third for Ireland. The dues were payable by those concerned with shipping, and out of the dues so collected the light service was maintained. The Lighthouse Board for England was known as Trinity House, for Scotland as the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, and for Ireland as the Commissioners of Irish lights. The Board of Trade had a certain supervising control over these three Boards, and it had to approve of any financial scheme they brought forward for the erection of new works, and in the case of any difference arising between Trinity House and the other two Boards, the Board of Trade acted as a Court of Appeal between them. The first objection he raised to this arrangement was that the existing Boards were not representative of the payers of dues. They had no statutory representation on the Board. His next objection was that those who composed the Boards were not qualified by practical knowledge to deal properly with the very important functions entrusted to them. Take the case of Trinity House. It was an ancient institution, closely associated with history, and in criticising Trinity House no one would say a word disrespectful of that time-honoured institution The governing body of Trinity House consisted of twenty-four Elder Brethren—eleven honorary, and thirteen active. The honorary members were persons of great distinction, and their presence upon that Board gave it a dignity and prestige which it could not otherwise possess. They did not, however, take part in the practical work, which was done by the active members. The active brethren consisted of retired officers of the Navy or the Mercantile Marine, who had served their various callings. As he had already stated, there were no shipowners' representatives at Trinity House, nor was there any guarantee for the presence of engineers with special knowledge. He had been looking into the ages of these gentlemen, and he found that two of them were between sixty and seventy years of age, three between seventy and eighty, one between eighty and ninety, and one over ninety years of age. He thought hon. Members would admit that these men were not at that period of life when the greatest amount of activity was shown. The experience they possessed belonged to a remote period, and referred to a time when the sailing vessel was almost the exclusive ship of the day, and when steam had not come into general use.

With regard to the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, this body was composed of the law officers for Scotland, the Lord Provosts and Provosts of the chief ports, the eldest bailies of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the sheriffs of a large number of counties abutting on the coast. There was no provision for any kind of expert knowledge or for the presence of a nautical man on that Board. With regard to the Commissioners of Irish Lights, it was a heterogeneous body, numbering twenty-four, five of them ex-officio, and nineteen co-opted. The ex-officio members consisted of the Lord Mayor, the High Sheriff, and three aldermen of the city of Dublin. The co-opted members possessed no special qualifications, and he found that they included two shipowners, three noblemen, one land agent, one retired military man, a manufacturer, a dealer in chemical manures, a timber merchant, a wine merchant, and a distiller. He thought it would be obvious that a body so constituted could not be relied upon either for efficiency or economy, and on behalf of the shipping interests he might state that they were quite satisfied that whatever might be the personal qualifications of those gentlemen, nevertheless the proceedings of the Board had been characterised by very grave extravagance and inefficiency. The principle underlying this question of light dues was that they should be limited to an amount reasonably necessary for the requirements of the light service. That principle would be fully recognised, but the experience of the past showed that it was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. The worst offender in this matter was Trinity House, which had had sole control of these lights up to the year 1855. They accumulated a large surplus which they devoted to pensions and other charitable objects. That was found fault with by the shipping community, who did not wish their money to be devoted to charitable objects, and the Commission of 1855 strongly condemned that practice. Accordingly, by the Merchant Act of 1855, the financial control of the light system was transferred from Trinity House to the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade collected substantially the amount required, but in the year 1884 further charges were placed by Parliament upon the Mercantile Marine Fund, which the revenues of that fund were unable to meet; and consequently the Board of Trade had to collect, under the name of light dues, additional sums to pay deficits on other expenditure. During the period from 1884 to 1899, the Board of Trade collected £1,250,000 in excess of the requirements of the light service, which they devoted to other charges. That was very strongly objected to by the shipowners, and a Departmental Committee was appointed in 1896, which sat under the Chairmanship of Mr. Leonard Courtney, and while that Committee vindicated the Board of Trade, at the same time it held that this money should not be devoted to other purposes. Consequently it was decided that in future the Light Dues should be confined to Lighthouse purposes.

He might be told that in consequence of that there was a reduction of £100,000 in the Light Dues, but that was because from 1899 the Board of Trade ceased to exact under the name of Light Dues, money which had been before taken for entirely different purposes. From the shipowners' point of view it was simply the stopping of a wrong course of action, but it did not restore to them the £1,250,000 which had been extracted from them. The result of the Mercantile Marine Fund being relieved of these charges was that the lighthouse authorities had a great deal more money to spend, and it appeared to them that the more money they had to spend the more free they were in spending it. There had been a great growth of expenditure, and if they compared the total expenditure between 1855 and 1883 with the expenditure between 1900 and 1902, they would find that it had gone up by 50 per cent. during that period. The expenditure upon new works was particularly noticeable. When the Departmental Committee of 1896, was sitting the representative of the various Lighthouse Boards appeared before the Committee and stated that the sum of £50,000 per annum would be sufficient for new works as far as he could see for many years to come. In the period from 1855 to 1883 the amount spent on new works was £49,250 per annum;, from 1884 to 1889 the total increased to £62,973; whilst in the period between 1900 and 1902 since the Mercantile Marine Fund was relieved of those extra charges, it had increased to £97,745, or nearly double what the lighthouse authorities themselves estimated. The way this kind of extravagance had shown itself was in the accumulation of surplus funds. The Committee of 1896 deprecated any accumulation of money beyond £100,000, and they said that if more than that was collected it should be applied to the reduction of the dues. The fact was that at present those funds had accumulated to £345,973. That money was in the hands of the lighthouse authorities or the Board of Trade, and yet nothing had been done to reduce the dues.

It had long been a matter of complaint that shipowners had not been allowed any representation on these boards. In the year 1899 the Board of Trade went a little way in that direction by appointing an Advisory Commission to assist them in considering the expenditure upon new works. It consisted of twelve Members, including shipowners, underwriters, and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, but the experience of that Committee had been most disappointing and unsatisfactory. They had, however, seen enough to assure them that there were many instances of extravagance not only in new works but in lighthouse expenditure. He would give one instance. The Irish Board proposed to spend £32,000 in replacing a yacht, called the "Princess Alexandra," which had been condemned. The Advisory Committee asked why it had been condemned, and they failed to elicit any satisfactory answer. They had the vessel examined by Lloyd's, and they received a report that by expending £500, the yacht could be made serviceable for several years. The Board of Trade sent their surveyor down and he said that this was quite an unnecessary outlay, because a sixteen knots speed was quite unnecessary, and that the accommodation was superfluous having regard to the small amount of time the Commissioners spent on board. At the next meeting the Irish Board brought in an Estimate for £26,000, but on the Advisory Committee proceeding to criticise the Estimate it was withdrawn, because it was declared that new steamers were not new works, and were outside the purview of the Committee. That was one of many examples which he could give. It had been the practice of the Advisory Board to address an annual letter to the President of the Board of Trade stating their views in regard to matters brought before them. He should like to read to the House some extracts from letters written by Mr. James C. Burns, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, to the President of the Board of Trade. He says— While we fully appreciate your recognition, by the establishment of this Committee, of the claim of those whom we represent to have a voice in the expenditure of the Lighthouse Boards, yet the information we have been able to obtain so far, although not of large extent, confirms our belief that the three Lighthouse Boards ought to be reformed and reconstructed. This letter was written in 1900, and in March 1901 a further letter stated— We feel bound to repeat our statement of last year that the three Lighthouse Boards should be consolidated and reformed, as the more we inquire into the manner in which their affairs are conducted, the more we are strengthened in the opinion that the present arrangements conduce neither to efficiency nor economy. In a letter dated the 21st of March, 1902, Mr. Burns wrote— While we are glad to be of any service in eliciting information in regard to the expenditure of the three Boards on new works, and placing our views before you in regard to that expenditure, yet we cannot but express our regret that our powers of inquiry into the expenditure of these Boards are so limited, and by your recent decision, if adhered to, are still more curtailed. We also desire to say that in our opinion if the Lighthouse Boards are in the future to be conducted in an efficient and economical manner, measures of reform and consolidation must be adopted, and we would earnestly urge that this matter has your serious attention. The shipping interest considered it altogether unjust that the expenses of the lighthouses should be defrayed by a charge on shipping, because the coasts were lighted not merely for the benefit of the Mercantile Marine, but for the benefit of the Royal Navy, and of passing vessels of all nations. The dangers of the sea arose to a large extent from proximity to the land, and it was the duty of every nation to light its coasts so as to cause as little danger as possible to passing vessels. It was, therefore, an Imperial duty—a duty which this country owed to other countries, and which was recognised by every country but our own and the Ottoman Empire. Freights were not fixed now by adding together the different charges which the shipowner had to bear. They were fixed by competition between the shipping of various nations; and as other nations were free from these charges, of course they were able to compete to advantage against the British shipowner, who was thus handicapped. When this matter had been brought before a Select Committee of that House, or any tribunal of that kind, it had pronounced in favour of the course recommended in this Bill. There were two Select Committees, in 1822 and 1834, which did not certainly make any distinct recommendation, but favourably commented on the proposal: but the Select Committee of 1845 was very distinct. The Report of that Committee said— Having duly considered all these and many other circumstances, we are of opinion, and recommend to the House that, all expenses for the erection and maintenance of lighthouses, floating lights, buoys, and beacons on the coast of the United Kingdom, be henceforth defrayed out of public revenue. He contended that the shipping interest had paid over and over again for these lighthouses, and the most they could do in handing them over to the Government was to say, "Take the lighting system which we have provided, and bear the public expense." The Royal Commission of 1858 - 61 alluded to this subject, and recommended that the expense of erecting and maintaining our lighthouses should be defrayed out of the public revenue. Then the Subsidies Committee last December recommended that Light Dues should be abolished. In fact, whenever the voice of the nation had been heard upon this matter it had been uniformly in favour of making this a national charge. It had been said that in other European countries the light charges were borne by the Government. That had been questioned. He wished to say that he had looked into the evidence, and he had the evidence from the different authorities before him. He was satisfied that the statement was correct, namely, that in all the European countries, with the exception he had named, the lighthouses were controlled by the State. In France, where they were said to have the best lights in the world, the total cost of maintaining the French lighting service was £60,000 as against our £500,000. Was not that an indication that there was something wrong? In Germany there were two classes of lights—the naval lights maintained by the Empire and the general lights maintained by each State in the Empire—and although the expenses were very much greater than the revenue they did this work in the interests of the country. In Belgium the light dues were abolished in 1896; and in Holland, Spain, Portugal, Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Italy, Norway, and Russia the cost of the lights was borne by the State. It was quite true that tonnage taxes were paid in some of these countries, but they had nothing to do with lights; they corresponded with our port and harbour charges. In this country ports and harbours were provided by private enterprise, and the bodies providing them charged dues for their upkeep, but on the Continent they were provided by the governments, and therefore tonnage rates were charged.

In conclusion he might be allowed to anticipate what objections could possibly be made to the proposal. It seemed to him that the only objection they could really apprehend would be what might be termed the Chancellor of the Exchequer's objection. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was not present, but he naturally assumed a forbidding aspect when any suggestion was made with regard to money. But they generally found that "where there's a will, there's a way." If it could be shown that any expenditure was really required in the public interest, the money would be forthcoming; and might he say on behalf of those he represented that if there was difficulty at the present time in providing for this in the Budget, they had no objection to postponing the operation of the: Bill for a year, or such time as might be desired, so long as the principle of the Bill was admitted. Another objection that might be raised was that we should be relieving foreigners as well as our own subjects. That was no doubt the case, but there was no wish on the part of those he represented to discriminate between foreigners and British subjects. He commended the matter to the serious consideration of the House. All must feel that the shipping industry was passing through a very severe ordeal at the present time. They had to contend with subsidised and bounty-fed vessels and a great many advantages which British shipowners did not possess. They were greatly handicapped in the race they had to run, and he felt sure the House would be disposed to grant them such measure of relief in order to prevent this inequality. This was not only asked for by shipowners; it had been asked for by various Chambers of Commerce throughout the Empire, and by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, by underwriters, and by the whole of the mercantile community. They all asked that shipping should be relieved from this tax, and he commended the matter to the earnest consideration of the House. He begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. C. McArthur.)


said he desired to support the principle of the Bill, which, he hoped, would alse receive support from the Government, in order, at any rate, that the subject might be discussed thoroughly in Committee. He might say, as representing the shipping interest in the port of Hull, that the feeling had been consistently in favour of the total abolition of the light dues. Even when the legislation of 1898 took place—legislation which some of them criticised and opposed—it was felt that the proper course then to be pursued would have been the abolition of the dues, and certainly not the appointment, of the Advisory Committee, the failure of which had been a marked one, and which he was sorry to see was held to be a precedent in connect on with this Bill for the insertion of a clause providing for the appointment of another consultative Committee associated with the Board of Trade. The ground chiefly on which he supported the Bill was on the principle that a national duty ought to be performed by the nation. When they recollected also that the only exception which was at present made was that in favour of exempting the ships of the Royal Navy from the payment of light dues, it seemed to him that a national duty was not only unfulfilled, but that an advantage was positively taken in favour of the ships of the nation in exempting them from a payment which was placed not on the nation but on the shipowners. His hon. friend had referred to the feeling of the Chambers of Commerce, and he was able to emphasise what was said, because on more than one occasion he had taken part in the discussion of this question there. This was not, therefore, merely a shipowner's question, It had the support of the mercantile community—in other words, of a very large portion of the nation which contributed to the Consolidated Fund which, they maintained, ought to boar the impost. He would point out that if the result of this Bill should be to make the incidence of the burden fall upon the shoulders of the consumers—as was already alleged to be the case—he should certainly prefer that the incidence should be direct, and that so there should be a check on national expenditure rather than that it should be merely indirect. But it was always difficult to fix where such incidence really took place, and probably, owing to economic friction, as he might call it, it was a divided incidence. Now the principle of the Bill was that this was the performance of a national duty; but he would put it even higher than that, and say that it would be the performance of an international duty. And when they remembered that every maritime nation, except the one mentioned by his hon. friend, already performed that duty, surely there was a strong argument from experience for taking that course. They had to remember that this was not merely a question of the protection of property or the relief of property from a burden imposed on it: it was a question of saving life, and, above all, for inducing trade to come to this country. A safely lighted country was one which attracted trade, and one object of making our lights as attractive as possible was that it must be for the benefit of the nation as a whole. After all, the ocean was the international highway, and to light the highway at the cost of a particular class of persons, who were certainly not the only users of these lights, was like reverting to the old system of turnpike tolls. He maintained that sea commerce was a national benefit, and that the nation should bear the cost of inducing that trade to come safely to this country.

One of the strongest remarks made by his hon. friend who introduced this Bill was that in which he indicated the consequences of the present system. These were, he said, distinctly costly. But there was one particular case on which he would like to enlarge, because, having recently been in Canada, he knew the feeling that existed there in regard to these light dues. There was a feeling of resentment against the hardship which was produced by these dues in our great colony. Canada had difficult seas and estuaries to be navigated, and they needed a perfect system of lights, but Canada discharged that duty out of her own national funds. But Canada had a large coasting trade with the United States, which, nevertheless, imposed a tonnage tax on all Canadian shipping, not because Canada did not light her coasts, but because we in this country imposed a tax for lights on United States shipping. That United States tonnage tax was an impost of no slight amount, and it was strongly resented in Canada. It, therefore, became a matter of Imperial duty and interest in our association with our colonies to deal with this matter. He could not help thinking that the recommendation of the Shipping Subsidies Committee, which was the latest and most important pronouncement on the subject—was probably based largely on the consideration that the shipping interest had thus to bear very considerable burdens which were differential against our ships. His hon. friend had referred to the case of foreign bounties, and he believed that the very next Bill on the paper was a Bill for equalising the treatment of foreign and British ships on many matters. When they considered that our mercantile marine had to compete with foreign shipping under great comparative disadvantages, the House ought to support this Bill. The mercantile marine had performed a great national service to the country during the South African war in transporting hundreds of thousands of troops without a single casualty and therefore it had shown itself to be a great source of protection to the nation if the need should ever arise; we ought, therefore, to take care, on national grounds, that it was not unduly burdened.

He should like to say a word or two in regard to the legislation of 1898. It was heralded by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade as a great boon. He did not consider it to be a boon in any great degree at all. It had caused the keeping of voluminous Parliamentary papers and most complex accounts; and it must be remembered that while it was distinctly stated that there was to be no accumulation beyond £100,000, they found that no less than £345,000 had been accumulated from these light dues and invested in securities. That was, he contended, a large abstraction of fruitful capital from the shipping industry. So far from being a boon, the legislation to which he had referred had been a great disadvantage. Of course he knew that Liverpool approved of it, but he was inclined to think that Liverpool sometimes took a narrow and very local view of its own interests; but the Act had been a distinct disadvantage to the East Coast, and especially to the Humber ports. It had involved the increase in the payment of dues of 100 per cent. or more in many cases. Therefore the time had come when they looked for more equality by the repeal of the system enacted in 1898, and the distribution over the whole community of the support of those lights which were essential to the safety of our commerce. What he said of Hull was equally applicable to the East Coast generally, where the ships got comparatively little use of the lights—from the Humber of almost the Spurn alone. They believed that in these matters equality meant equity. One other promise had been made in 1898 to the House, which was to be of national advantage, and that was that the shipping interest would be induced by the Act to train boys for the Royal Naval Reserve. No one who had considered the figures presented to Parliament on this matter could feel that that expectation had been in any degree fulfilled, and, in fact, the Act held out no sufficient inducement and was so far a failure, as it had been in other respects. He had a word to say on a point of detail in the Bill, in regard to which he differed from his hon. friend; although it did not go to the root of the Bill, and he should nevertheless heartily vote with his colleagues in favour of the Second Reading He would, however, in Committee, hesitate to support the the proposals of a revolutionary character suggested as to the system of administration of the lights of this country. He did not for a moment defend the administration of the Irish lights, and he quite admitted that there was need for a considerable representative element of shipowners and merchants in the administration of the lights; but he repeated that he did not think that could ever be achieved by a mere Consultative Committee. The administrative body ought to be directly responsible. But for his own part he doubted very much whether the abolition of the Trinity House would achieve the end they all had in view. He did not object to the proposals in the Bill wholly on the ground of sentiment, though historically any ancient body like Trinity House bad a claim on the consideration of the House, but he respectfully demurred to the statement of his hon. friend that the Trinity House Brethren had not the necessary practical knowledge. Now, whether regarding them as sitting as Assessors in Court, or in the administration of the lights, generally speaking, the charges made against them had not been proved. There might have been sometimes excessive expenditure, but that could be, and had been checked.


By whom?


By the Consultative Committee. He admitted that the action of that Committee, as stated by the hon. Mr. Burns, had achieved some reduction in expenditure; but he insisted that all the objects sought to be attained could be accomplished by the fusion of the mercantile trading and shipping interests with Trinity House. In regard to the Trinity House at Hull the Elder Brethren were not open to the charge of excessive expenditure. The whole community in that city recognised that the duties of these Elder Brethren as Master Mariners had been performed with skill and economy, and with great local knowledge and judgment, by able and experienced retired Master Mariners; and he claimed for that Trinity House that it had not only the best, but the only great, nautical school in the country for the Mercantile Marine. That school sent out Master Mariners of the highest skill, ability, and character; and knowing the manner in which the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House at Hull had performed their duties, he held that it would be a great loss to the Humber and district if their local knowledge, experience and skill were removed as a part of the system of administration of the lights. At the same time, he admitted that that was a subject for consideration in Committee, and not now. The principle of the Bill was sound; it put the burden on the right shoulders, secured a more representative character on the administrative authorities, and took care that the expenditure was reduced to a proper point. He thought all these checks would be most advantageous, and he hoped that this reform would be assisted by the Government. If it had to be delayed in coming into operation, there were accumulated funds amounting to £345,000 which might be utilised in modifying the consequences of that delay, and in expediting the abolition of the light dues. He appealed to the Government to render its help in support of the Bill, not only in the interest of the shipping industry but in that of the general community.

MR. ROBSON (South Shields)

said that the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of the Bill spoke as one representing his own interests.


I am not a shipowner.


said it would have been a misfortune if a debate of this character had not been initiated by those who were interested in the shipping business. But there was a broader point of view. This was a trade tax; and, as such, should be approached from the point of view of the general trade of the country. He proposed to deal with the question from that point of view; and that only. It was a trade tax, and not merely a trade tax, but was a kind of trade tax that was peculiarly mischievous, even among trade taxes. It was a tax on transport. It was suggested by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading that the tax was not one easy to transfer to the general community. That might be, but he did not know that that was much excuse. Either the tax was one which remained where it was first placed, on the shipowning industry, or it was transferred, by means of an increase of rates, to the community at large. In either alternative it was a bad tax. It was not fair or just that any deferential tax should be laid upon this particular industry, which would place it at a disadvantage in competing with foreign shipowners; it was not less mischievous that this industry should transfer the tax to those on whose behalf they carried goods. There they got the peculiar vice of a transport tax. What was a tax on transport? It was not merely a tax on shipping, it was a tax on everything the ship carried, that was, if it were transferred to those for whom the shipowners acted. In that regard it was a corn tax, a cotton tax, and an iron tax. It was a tax upon the whole trade of the country; and, more particularly, a tax on raw material. If there was one proposition in economics on which all schools of economists were agreed, it was that taxation should be so adjusted that it should not fall on the raw material of the country. Any tax which fell on British shipping was a mistake, as it meant a tax on raw material. Last session they had animated discussions as to the comparative merits or demerits of an import tax and export tax. But a tax on shipping combined all the demerits of the two. Therefore, they had to deal to-day with a tax which was vicious in principle, not merely from the point of view of the shipowners, but from the point of view of all interested in the general prosperity of the trade of the country. It would hamper trade in all manner of unexpected ways. He would mention one illustration—in itself a small matter, but good as an illustration—of the evil effects of the tax, even as far as shipping alone was concerned. A British ship desiring to collect its cargo at different ports entered a port with part cargo to finish loading, and a tax was at once laid, not on the cargo, but on the tonnage. He did not put that forward as constituting any grave burden, but only as illustrating the many mischiefs of trade taxation.

The hon. Gentleman referred to one matter which struck him as being most significant. He said that the amount paid by American ships in light dues only amounted to about £4,000 or £5,000, whereas English ships paid at American ports something like £60,000 or £70,000. That statement was striking when they heard the argument that light dues could be collected from foreigners without inflicting any burden on English trade. That was not so; because, like most attempts to tax the foreigner, it provoked retaliation, which was greater and more mischievous than the particular profit that was earned. America had to pay, for instance, between £4,000 and £5,000, and, as a result, America punished this country to the extent of £60,000 or £70,000. The legislation of America on this matter was retaliatory legislation; and in the attempt to get money out of the foreigner, this country was punished to a degree altogether out of proportion to the original profit. They had heard about reciprocity in trade; and they should seize every opportunity to get reciprocity, not by retaliation, but by concession. From the point of view, therefore, of the taxpayer, and from sound principles of taxation, he ventured to condemn this Bill. It was said that shipowners were subject to certain special burdens, but it was difficult to find any trade that was not burdened more or less specially. But the shipowners undoubtedly would have to anticipate further burdens, burdens which, as far as he was able to gather, they were not unwilling to assume. For instance, there was the compensation of seamen, on which the House of Commons had expressed its opinion. No doubt the shipowners would prefer to delay, or modify, or qualify that burden; but still they did not show any unworthy unwillingness to accept some burden in this regard. That also should be taken into consideration when the House was invited to relieve the trade of any exceptional burden which now lay upon it.

MR. DUKE (Plymouth)

said his hon. and learned friend had been exceedingly moderate; but he did not feel so leniently towards this tax as his hon. and learned friend. The system of light dues came into existence when this country had very little shipping, when agriculture was the principal industry, and when it was thought by those who managed the affairs of the nation that the best method for providing for the lighting of the coasts was that the people who were venturesome enough to traverse the seas should pay for the privilege of doing so. Upon that footing power was given, and very often given to landowners as a privilege, to establish lighthouses and collect dues from people who went to sea. If this country were to continue to be the greatest master of commerce in the world, the present state of things ought not to be allowed to continue. Every civilised country in the world except one regarded the provision of lighthouses as a national obligation. Even at the Board of Trade they were regarded as a national obligation, though it was quite true they were managed through the medium of some ancient and picturesque corporation which the Board of Trade did not wish to improve out of existence. But it did seem a little odd that, for the sake of the maintenance of a picturesque system, they should maintain a burden which did not belong to the modern state of things. Other countries recognised this obligation as belonging to the State; and was this Parliament to declare at this time of day that it was not a national obligation, or, at any rate, if it were a national obligation that the State ought not to bear it? He should be glad to hear from the representative of the Government who would reply, whether in the view of the Government this was not a national obligation; and if it were, whether the nation bore the burden of it; and if not, whether it was proposed to transfer the burden attendant on the performance of this obligation from the shoulders of a section of the community to the Executive representing the entire community? Something had been said about the position of the shipping industry of this country at the present time. He was permitted to sit on the Shipping Subsidies Committee, and no one who heard the evidence of shipowners before that Committee could fail to appreciate that the condition of the shipping industry was now probably as critical as it had been at any time since the Navigation Laws were abolished. It was not apparently remembered that while the Navigation Laws were in existence burdens were tolerable which might be absolutely intolerable when the advantages of the Navigation Laws were withdrawn. The conclusion which was forced on his mind was that the condition of shipping was such that unless there was wiser administration of its interests, and wiser care taken to protect it from exceptional impositions, and from foreign competition, which had been sufficient in the course of ten years to reduce its relative value and its absolute profit to a most alarming extent, in the course of the next ten years they might expect the owners of ships demanding legislation compared with which this Bill was trivial and unimportant.

When demands of this kind were made on Parliament, they had to be met. When, for example, those interested in the agricultural industry in Ireland came to this House, and demanded great subventions from the Treasury they had to be provided at whatever cost. The stress of foreign competition was beginning to break down and seriously imperil the supremacy of British shipping on the seas, and here was a case where something really ought to be done to relieve the shipping industry of a burden which was perhaps placed upon it properly in other years, but which should not now be borne by it. Yet what was the answer to this demand on the part of the Government? The answer was that this country could not afford it. It was difficult to suppose that this was a serious answer to this demand of the shipping industry if it was a reasonable and just demand. Let them consider what it amounted to. The shipowners and the traders and those who dealt in and consumed seaborne goods were alone made to bear the burden of half a million, plus the penalty paid in America and the disadvantages suffered by the colonies, who had dues exacted from them because of the dues which America had to pay, and yet it was said that this country could not find the means to redress that anomaly. His Majesty's Government was not so timid in other directions. Did it not exhibit John Bull in a somewhat ignominious light when he stood on his own doorstep collecting halfpence in this way, acting as his own linkman, and collecting a toll from those who wished to be lighted into his premises. The policy which dominated this question was a very curious one. The shipowners in this country paid five-sixths of the total amount of the cost of lighting the coasts of the Kingdom, and the impost could not be defended in principle. Was it not hard that when they came to the Government of the greatest and wealthiest empire in the world, they should be told we could not afford to remedy this injustice? He hoped that the Bill moved that day would, at all events, fix a period to the system. It might be that when millions had to be provided for other purposes it was not possible to provide half a million this year, but the shipowners had complained of this matter again and again, and they had still to bear the burden. Under the circumstances it might be reasonable to say that having regard to the burdens that the country had had to bear in other directions this year, this sum could not be paid out of the exchequer, but if that were so, there was no reason why the Government should not say that it should end in two years or three, or that at any rate it should not continue beyond five years.


thought that whatever ground of complaint there was against Trinity House and the Irish Board of Lights, there was considerably greater ground for complaint against the Commission of Lights for Scotland. The Board of Elder Brethren of Trinity House consisted of thirteen members, who had passed the greater part of their lives at sea and were well acquainted with the requirements of lighting the coasts. On the Irish Board there were two shipowners, but on the Commission of Northern Lights there was not a single nautical man. That body consisted of fourteen lawyers and a few municipal representatives whose other duties were so great that they were rarely able to attend the meetings of the Board, and the result was that the whole administration was practically in the hands of the engineering expert whose decisions became the decisions of the Board. The administration of the Trinity House was far better than that of the Commission of Northern Lights. Some five years ago a very strong representation was made by the Shipmasters' and Seamen's Association of Scotland as to the different periods of lighting and extinguishing the lights round the coast of Scotland, as compared with those of England. That representation set forth strenuous objections to putting out the lights earlier in the morning and lighting them much later in the evening than was done by the Trinity House in England, but the Commissioner of Northern Lights took no notice of that representation, except that it set forth some hypothetical reasons in support of its own antiquated code. We were always being told of Imperial interests, but even now Canada was suffering in all its coast trade in consequence of the stupid course taken by this country in this matter. The serious imposts inflicted upon them when they visited the ports of the United States and the other points which had been referred to, demanded, in his opinion, the most serious consideration of the Government.


said he had hoped that the Government would have intervened before with the statement that they had made up their minds to do away with the injustice under which shipowners were suffering. It was very clear to his mind that the present lighthouse authorities had not done their duty. If no other charge could be brought against them, the charges of extravagance had been made good. What were the facts? In 1896 light dues collected from shipowners were £398,000. It was generally understood then that the amount had reached high water mark, and yet last year the amount of these dues had grown to £500,000, an increase of something like £102,000. Surely there must be leakage somewhere. There was at all events extravagance. This was the more evident when they compared the amount with that expended in other countries. The whole cost of lighting the lighthouses and buoying the coast in France was something like £50,000. A similar amount sufficed in Italy, and considerably less in Germany. If these three countries, each of which had a very long coast line, could perform this service at such a comparatively small cost, surely it was plain there was room for a very considerable reduction of the British light dues. In order that that might be effected he believed it was necessary to reconstitute the lighthouse authority. Ship owners were not wedded to the idea of making the Board of Trade that authority. They proposed it because they believed the Government were likely to favour that idea more than any other and the Board of Trade at present enjoyed the confidence of shipowners. They suggested however, that the Board of Trade should be assisted by practical shipmasters and shipowners so as to avoid extravagance; at all events it must be generally admitted that some alteration in the authority was needed and he hoped that consideration would induce the Government to allow this Bill to go to a Committee in order that the matter might be considered. In regard to the proposal to abolish the light dues he pointed out that the question had been before the country for at least a hundred years. Select Committees were appointed in 1821, 1834, 1845, and 1860 and all reported in favour of the remission of the light dues In addition they had there-port of the Select Committee on Subsidies, which also recommended the abolition of the dues. Most of the witnesses examined before that Committee recommended the abolition of the light dues even though they were not in favour of subsidies. He thought that fact ought to have great weight with the House. A Royal Commission sat in 1861 which also approved of the abolition of these dues. It was true the Departmental Committee did not report in favour of the abolition of the light dues, but that was because the Government obtained an understanding that the Committee need not make a recommendation in that direction before it was appointed. It was frequently said that it was only right that the people who benefited by the lights should pay the dues. It was not a fact now that the users of the light paid the dues. It was true that the ships which entered and cleared from our ports paid dues but the coast lights of the British isles were used by vessels of all nations not proceeding to our ports at all, and therefore, contributing nothing in the shape of dues. The largest users of the lights in this country, the Navy, again paid nothing in the way of light dues. Surely it was not fair that shipowners whose vessels use the home ports should be made to pay the whole cost of maintaining the coast lights.

It could not be gainsaid that the foreigner helped to pay these dues, but surely the fact that they were getting money out of foreign nations was no reason for perpetuating an injustice to our own people. Moreover, if they dealt fairly to the ships of foreign nations in this respect, they would be able to claim from foreign nations that their vessels coming to our ports should be made to comply with the regulations of our Board of Trade, and so placed on an equal footing with our own ships. For that reason he thought the country need not regret the loss of £150,000 a year—which, after all, would not be a loss, because whatever amount was derived from foreign shipowners under these light dues was more than counterbalanced by exactions from our shipowners in foreign ports. The United States compelled the payment of tonnage dues on all ships coming to her ports, but those dues were lessened in proportion to the degree in which American vessels were released from dues in other countries. Because in England, American ships were made to pay light dues, therefore English ships in American ports were subject to tonnage dues which were intended to counterbalance the disadvantage on American ships. That might be fair if the shipping of the two nations were equal, but inasmuch as twenty British ships entered American ports for every one entering our ports from the United States, we paid twenty times as much as we were able to exact. Although some foreign countries charged tonnage dues which might in part cover the cost of lighting, other countries such as Holland and Belgium did not charge any tonnage dues, and he strongly supported the idea that no light dues should be charged on shipping. Answering a statement issued by Trinity House to the Committee on Subsidies, he said he had already shown that the charge did not fall upon those whose property was protected. The charge did not fall upon freight, because freights were not affected by the charges. For example, a vessel loading in New York for Bordeaux would get exactly the same freight as one trading for England. The fact that England charged light dues and France did not, would not affect the freights at all. It was stated that the charge was a small one, but small or large, he could only say the shipping trade to-day was in so bad a condition that even the smallest charge was of the greatest importance, seeing that vessels did not pay their expenses, let alone paying for deterioration or interest on capital. This statement pointed out that the charges under the system which came into force in 1899 were much lower than before, what did that prove? That far more was charged to the shipowners than was absolutely necessary, and as a consequence money was expended in extravagance. The fact remained that £345,000 had been accumulated, and he was afraid unless something was done extravagance would be continued. He believed the cost of the light could be reduced exactly one half, and he could not help thinking that the Government, when it appreciated the position, would meet the requests for relief, and if they could not give them relief this year they would hold out hopes that it would be given next year.

MR. MACONOCHIE (Aberdeenshire, E.)

thought that Parliament should do all it could to assist the shipping industry, because shipowners were now faced with competition such as they had never had to contend with before, and had a great deal to do to maintain their position in the shipping world. Speaking from his experience of a small port in the north of Scotland twenty years ago, nine-tenths of the traffic in that port was carried in British vessels, whereas the present proportion was only one-tenth. All the governments in the civilised world were doing their utmost to maintain and develop their shipping; and the British Government, if it were wise, would speedily step in and relieve British shipowners. They all believed in the Plimsoll mark, but there was no doubt that it had done British shipping much harm by enabling foreigners to carry much larger freights, and consequently to charge lower prices. That, however—at which they did not grumble much—was only one of the many anomalies with which they had to contend. But the British shipowner, if he came to Parliament and asked—rightly, as he thought—to be considered, ought also to consider the British manufacturer, and see that he was not placed in a worse position than the foreign manufacturer. To give a concrete case, some years ago in the course of business he had to send a quantity of goods to Beira. The London manufacturer had to pay 45s. per ton, whereas the German manufacturer, by arrangement with the shipowners in London, was allowed to ship his goods on a through Bill of Lading from London, viâ Hamburg, to Beira for 30s. per ton. These things would have to be considered if the Government were to make concessions, which he agreed were perfectly right and proper, to the shipping community.

MR. HARRIS (Tynemouth)

said the fact that this Bill came before the House backed by the opinion of the whole shipping community of the country was a strong argument in favour of it receiving the support of the Board of Trade. He thought the most important proposal in the measure was the one with reference to moving the control of lighthouses, beacons, and buoys from the present authorities and vesting it in the Board of Trade. That proposal indicated something more than a mere wayward change. An authority directly represented in the House of Commons was desired, and those most concerned wished that authority to be the body which at present had the legislative control of the shipping industry. Trinity House, as it was now called, was not founded by Henry VIII. for the purpose of looking after the lights at all, but to direct the naval dockyards, ransom vessels which were seized, and "to improve the breed of seamen." Later on they obtained permission to erect beacons on the coasts, but it was not until 1836 that they secured the administrative control of the lights and the collection of light dues. Shipowners not only asked that the control should be changed, but asserted that it had been exercised extravagantly and inefficiently, and they thought the time had come when the Government should grant their request. The incidence of this tax should be removed from the shoulders of the shipowners and placed on the general community by being paid out of the Imperial Exchequer. Toll-gates had been abolished as far as inland traffic was concerned, but the principle remained in regard to sea traffic, with the strange anomaly that, of all the people who used the lights only those who brought commerce and trade to these shores were taxed, while those who benefited foreign countries were charged no dues at all. It would possibly he argued that the charge of £500,000 a year was a comparatively small sum, and that the shipowners were a rich community, and well able to pay it. That might be true in a way, but it was not the amount so much as the principle of which they complained. They did not come to the House in forma pauperis to ask a favour; they were entitled in equity and justice to have this grievance removed. The tax did not affect shipping alone, because shipowners in calculating the prices at which they could profitably carry the goods of merchants took the tax into consideration. Its incidence fell very heavily on some classes of material imported. The total amount worked out at about 2s. per cent. on the whole of the imports into this country. As the tax was levied on tonnage it worked out at less on materials of high value, but on raw materials of low value it amounted in some cases to nearly 1 per cent., which, owing to wastage and so on, represented a considerably higher percentage on the manufactured, refined, or marketable article. As representing a large shipping constituency, he cordially supported the Second Reading of the Bill, and hoped the Government would enable the measure to pass, so that the administration of the lights might be improved, and this unjust taxation fall not on the shipping industry alone but on the community at large.


thought the Government must admit that a strong case had been made out for the Bill. The arguments divided themselves into two categories—those advocating administrative change and those in favour of relieving the financial burdens on the shipping industry. As far as he could see, the only argument against the financial proposal was that, in view of the state of the finances of the country and the calls upon the National Exchequer, the present was not a convenient season at which to make the demand, and he thought the hon. Member for Plymouth did not go too far when he suggested a period of five years for making such a change as that involved in the Bill. Although some rather painful accounts had been given of the position of the shipping industry, there were signs, on the other hand, that it was not in so struggling a condition as it had been in the past. He would not, therefore, associate himself with those who urged an immediate financial change, although he agreed that a strong case had been made out for relief. He did not think the Northern Lights Commissioner's could be regarded as an effective body, judging from the way their work had been done. Most of the work done by them had been done extravagantly. When an engineer was in effective control he was apt to become extravagant, and look upon a construction as a memorial to his own talent. He thought these different bodies had been very extravagant, and any one who had seen the system in Denmark, where the lights, life saving appliances, and information provided for the fisheries were all under one control, could not help being struck with the efficiency and economy with which those services were conducted. He thought it might have been more expedient to have begun a reform with the Scottish and Irish Lights Commissioners, although he thought to secure efficiency and economy this Bill was asking none too much. He thought this measure had been introduced by the mover with admirable fairness, and he was sure that the time was not far distant when a radical reform in these matters would be carried through.

MR. HOULT (Cheshire, Wirrall)

said it must have been rather astonishing to those who had been previously associated with this question to find such practical unanimity on both sides of the House with regard to the Second Reading of this Bill. Hitherto this subject had been regarded as purely one for shipowners. A great change had taken place in feeling in that House and also in the country, because it was now recognised that it was not a matter of shipowners only, but a matter which deeply affected the shipping industry which was of the greatest importance to the country. Traders now recognised that the effect of anything which was to the detriment of the shipping industry was detrimental to trade, hence they found traders now in this House supporting what was an advantage to the shipping industry. He did not propose for one moment to occupy the time of the House by saying anything with regard to the injustice of this charge and the extravagance of the Boards who administered the duties of lighting our coasts, because that already had been most effectively dealt with by previous speakers. But he would wish to say a word with reference to the financial aspect of the question, and he could not but feel some sympathy for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the right hon. Gentleman was looked to by the country to initiate some very considerable reduction in taxation, which the country had had to meet in consequence of the war which had just ended. It was natural that the country should expect a very considerable reduction in taxation, and he for one would not blame the Chancellor of the Exchequer for getting his hands on every penny he could for the purpose of reducing that taxation. But it had been held out by the promoters of this Bill that the operation of it could be deferred, and that relieved the position as regarded the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was rather inclined to fancy that, serious as taxation was at present, and desirous as the people of this country were that some reduction should be made in taxation, if this question was thoroughly understood by the people they would not hesitate to consent to the additional taxation, or rather to forego the remission of taxation which might be necessary, in order to deal with this Bill. For evidence of that one could only refer to the large Votes that were constantly made by this House in favour of the Navy. Why were those Votes made? They were made to prevent war, and, in the event of war, to ensure safety. The people of this country would recognise that in the event of war without a strong mercantile marine, the position of the country would be very desperate, and hence anything that would conduce to the welfare of the mercantile marine, would, he was satisfied, meet with the approval of the country.

It might be asked why should this change be made? It had hitherto been borne by the shipping industry, and surely the shipping industry was still able to bear the tax, as the shipping industry had passed through depressions before. But the conditions were entirely different in previous depressions. The shipping industry had had to face competition from foreign nations possessed of shipping not capable of competing with the modern and best shipping owned by this country. Foreigners, until recently, fortunately came to this country and bought our second-hand ships, our castoffs as it were, which we were very glad to get rid of, and in previous depressions they had had these ships to face us in competition. But the position had entirely changed. The foreigner no longer bought second-hand old ships; he had recognised, long since, that that was a mistaken policy, and he possessed in these days the very best ships that could be obtained. No one could deny that in recent years foreign countries had become possessed of ships equal to our own in point of capacity and economy, and capable of competing with the best ships we had. The conditions, therefore, were entirely different in this depression to any depression they had previously experienced, and the question arose whether, in face of that competition, our shipping industry could still maintain its own. In his judgment that was somewhat doubtful. There was no doubt, for instance, that the Norwegians, the Germans, and the Spaniards could sail their ships cheaper than we could sail ours, and with regard to France, the bounty given by the French Government to their sailing ships would undoubtedly wipe out the sailing ships belonging to this country. Trade would gravitate to the place where conditions were most favourable. The increase in foreign tonnage might be insensible at first, but gradually it would increase, and he was perfectly satisfied that there was now no room whatever for any taxation on the shipping industry of this country. The shipowners, in prosecuting their trade, required to be placed on the very best terms it is possible for them to be placed. They must not be handicapped in any way if they were to succeed. In their competition with foreign countries they must be placed on terms certainly not less favourable, and even with the abolition of light dues, he was afraid that British shipowners might have very great difficulty in holding their own against foreign competition. Certainly the time had arrived when the Government of this country should give very close and earnest consideration to these subjects. From the unanimity which had been expressed on both sides of the House to-day, it was obvious that there was an overwhelming feeling in favour of this Bill. He thought he might say without the slightest hesitation that the Members of the House were simply representing the feelings of their constituents. He hoped they should have a reply from the President of the Board of Trade, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which would prove satisfactory to the shipping industry and at the same time to the country.

MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)

said the Bill had been introduced in an exhaustive speech by the hon Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool and nine other speeches had followed. In not one of these speeches had any hon. Member opposed the measure. It seemed to him that that indicated the overwhelming feeling of the House, which could not be gainsaid. His only regret was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was going to answer on behalf of the Government, was not present earlier to hear the extremely strong and detailed arguments which had been urged in favour of the Bill. There was a wide consensus of opinion, apart from the shipping interest, in favour of the measure. He himself had no connection with the shipping interest except in so far as he presided over the Subsidies Committee. It was on the broad principle that he supported the Bill, and that principle was that what was a national advantage should be a national undertaking. The municipalities which lighted the streets did not charge every cab and every foot passenger a tax for keeping up the lights. It was still more the duty of the Government to make the lighting of our coasts a national charge, because it was for the benefit of the whole nation. There were numerous witnesses before the Subsidies Committee unconnected with the shipping interest who advocated this alteration. Amongst the witnesses were Sir Robert Giffen, and Sir Spencer Walpole, both of whom were emphatically in favour of the abolition of light dues as now charged. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth, a high authority on naval and shipping matters, and the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton, who was not in any way connected with the shipping interest, were also entirely in favour of abolition of these dues, and the instances might be multiplied. He did not hesitate to say that the vast majority of the opinion of this country which had paid the slightest attention to this question was in favour of the passing of the Bill. His Majesty's ships were not charged light dues, and considering the pride we properly felt in our Navy it did seem mean that the shipowners should be called upon to pay for the lighting of the coasts on which the safety of His Majesty's ships depended. He was told that the Board of Trade disapproved of the Subsidies Committee having made any recommendation on the subject as being beyond their reference. The Committee were obliged to take cognisance of various matters connected with the shipping trade, because they desired to see how far there were contributor causes in addition to foreign subsidies affecting the trade. It was perfectly obvious to every member of the Committee that the witnesses were of opinion light dues should be abolished.


You did not take evidence upon it.


On the contrary, we took a great deal of evidence, including that of an official of the Board of Trade.


Was he in favour of it?


He carefully guarded himself by saying that the Board of Trade did not desire to express any opinion. Further, the conclusions of the Committee were not stated in the form of recommendations, but of opinions, which were summarised at the end of the Report. It seemed to him that it was really scouting common sense to suggest that, in spite of the exhaustive inquiry that had been held for two years, and of the public interest in the subject, they ought not to have made any report or even expressed any opinion on the matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would probably tell them in his reply that the Government had no money. That was the answer which was commonly given by Chancellors of the Exchequer when a private Bill involved the expenditure of money. In this case he did not believe that the Bill would impose a charge of half a million on the National Exchequer. Experts had told him that £250,000 would be sufficient for the purpose. It had been stated that France only expended £50,000 or £60,000 on coast lighting. Although he did not pretend to vouch for that figure, it did seem to him that £500,000 was an excessive amount of charge on the National Exchequer. When they remembered that the Government was perfectly prepared to spend £34,000,000 on the Army they might have some consideration for the shipping trade, which was so important to the national interest, by providing so comparatively small a sum. If the principle was sound that a national advantage should be paid for by the National Treasury, the Government might assent to the principle of the Bill, and then insert a clause, if they thought it necessary, that the measure should not come into operation for two years, so as to avoid throwing an immediate charge on the Treasury. A matter which was closely connected with this subject was the fact that the amount of light dues collected was considerably in excess of the actual cost of maintaining the lights. It seemed to him that that was rather a slim piece of public economy, and he did not think that it was quite worthy of such a nation as ours. He understood that in the year ending March 31, 1902, £30,194 more than was required for covering the cost of lighting the coasts was collected in light dues from the shipowners. That amount was included in the balance of £345,972, which was lying at the credit of the General Lighthouse Fund a year ago.

He did not think he need dilate much upon the composition of the proposed, new authority. It was suggested that shippers should have a voice in the matter, and that their advice would often be useful, but that could be considered by the Committee, and he did not suppose that his lion, friend would have any objection—as they made the offer of their services voluntarily—to striking out that portion of the Bill if the Board of Trade objected to it. What, he asked, was the practice of foreign countries in these matters? Great Britain and Turkey were the only nations that charged light dues upon the mercantile marine; all other nations made it a national charge. It was also pointed out that the United States put a tonnage tax of 6 cents a ton on our shipping which cost us from £60,000 to £80,000 a year, whereas we only obtained from United States shipping a sum of £5,000 for light dues. It might be said that even if we took off these light dues on United States ships, the United States would decline to take off their tonnage tax. That was a possibility which they should have to boar in mind, and it might be desirable to adopt a cautious policy in that respect. If the United States, or any other foreign nation, was not disposed to give and take in the matter, we might still excuse British ships from paying the light dues, and yet put a tonnage tax on foreign ships—not as a retaliation, but as a basis of negotiation. The Board of Trade had, he knew, been often abused for its general policy in connection with shipping and other matters. He thought that the language used in some pamphlets issued by those who were in favour of the Bill had been sometimes extravagant; and there was a disposition at times to make use of arguments and ex parte statements which were not wholly convincing. He felt some sympathy for the position of the Board of Trade, which had always to occupy a critical attitude. The normal position of the Board of Trade was largely one of supervision of the shipping interests, and interested people naturally said that the restraints which the Board required to be placed on shipping were restraints on our national trade. He thought that criticism of the Board of Trade was sometimes carried to excess, but at the same time he could not help admitting that the Board by its actions sometimes justified their reputation, and he was convinced that his right hon. friend would do much to belie that reputation if he were to pass this Bill. The measure might need some amendment, but the principle of it ought to be admitted. That it was admitted by the vast majority of those present was a matter which could not be doubted. He could only hope that after the strong views which had been expressed in the House the Government would gratify a wide-spread national feeling by supporting the Second Reading of the Bill.

MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)

said that in a matter of this kind the general public had to be considered as well as the shipowners. There would be a greater amount of sympathy for the shipowners if they showed greater interest in the national welfare by employing more British seamen and fewer foreigners on their ships and by not bringing down the wages of the sailors. But his main objection to the Bill was that it made an attack on the Northern Lights Commissioners of Scotland, and he presumed also on the Lights Commissioners of Ireland and England. He dissented entirely from the view expressed as to the Northern Lights Commissioners, and that a Board with a majority of shipowners would be preferable. The very worst representatives they could have on any Board were experts, who got into the way of predominating the other members of the Board. In Scotland there were on the Board legal representatives who were able to sift all the evidence brought before them, and were not liable to be overwhelmed by expert opinion, but took that opinion for what it was worth. He objected to the principle of the Bill in throwing the whole administration of the lights on the Board of Trade. He believed in decentralising administration, and that the Board of Trade was already far too heavily over weighted, and had more to do than it could stagger under. The Board of Northern Lights was composed of gentlemen of position, and if they had not given entire satisfaction they had done their very utmost in accordance with the means they had at their disposal. If the hon. Gentlemen who supported the Bill would endeavour to improve the constitution of that Board, and also that of the Irish Board, they would have the sympathy of the House; but the shipowners were not the only persons to be consulted; there was the general public. He was sure that such a Board as they had in Scotland was far more likely to do justice to the entire community than the hon. Gentleman who had addressed the House that afternoon. There was a point to which he wished to direct the attention of the President of the Board of Trade. He was credibly informed that engineers of the highest capacity were not employed, and that instead of these men being paid a fixed and proper salary according to the services they rendered, they were paid by commission on the amount collected. That was a very objectionable practice. He respectfully submitted that it was the duty of the President of the Board of Trade to put an end to this system of secret commission, and to place the position of the engineers and their salaries on a proper and business-like footing. There was one other point to which he wished to direct attention, and that was the inefficient lighting on many portions of our coasts. Much had been done to improve the lighting by the Scottish and the Irish Boards; but in many places the only lighting was by hoisting a ship's lantern on the top of a high pole. The lanterns were lit only at the convenience of the persons in charge, and the system was dangerous in outlying ports, and might be much worse than if there was no light at all. There was a cheap and efficient system of lighting on the coasts of Norway and Sweden. The cost of that system was something like 100 per cent. less than the system in this country, and it afforded an excellent light which burned a whole week on end and assured a great deal more safety than the system which had been adopted of cheap lights here.

MR. CORBETT (Down, N.)

said he noticed that there were very few of his colleagues present that day; but as an Irish Member he gave this Bill his most hearty and cordial support. He believed that, for once, he was speaking on behalf of all his Irish colleagues in so doing. He was not a shipowner, and had not a single share in any shipping concern; but he gave the Bill his support because it established an authority subject to public opinion and Parliamen- tary control instead of the obsolete Irish Lights Commissioners. No one in or out of Ireland knew how these Commissioners were appointed, but one thing they did know was that they were absolutely deaf to all appeals. Ever since he had entered the House he had tried by all the means in his power to call attention to the lighthouse at the entrance to Strangford Lough. That lighthouse was built many years ago, but it had never been lighted up yet. All kinds of public pressure bad been brought in vain to bear on the Irish Lights Commissioners to have the lighthouse lighted. Resolutions had been passed by County Councils and every kind of public opinion had been brought to bear upon thorn, but the answer, had always been that the Board of Trade had no kind of control over the Irish Lights Commissioners and that nothing could be done. It seemed that these Irish Lights Commissioners were a body of fossilised old gentlemen in Dublin who had no knowledge, and no desire to acquire the knowledge, of the responsibility of a body which undertook the duty of lighting the Irish coasts. He would give his vote in favour of a new authority subject to the control of Parliament, and of public opinion.


said he was sorry to oppose this Bill, but he could not forget that there was a large body throughout the country who were taxpayers, and he ventured to say that this question, no doubt one of very great importance, had come before the House at a singularly unfortunate time when large demands were being made on the public purse. A Party was springing up in the House which had, if he understood their action, for their object the promotion of economy in national expenditure. He was astonished that those Gentlemen were conspicuous by their absence that day. This was a matter in which the great body of British taxpayers were concerned, and they had a right to be heard. As he understood the question, the proposal was to transfer from the shipowners of this and foreign countries a payment of something like £500,000 on to the shoulders of the British taxpayers. So far as the amount paid by foreign shipping was concerned, he did not see that the loss was in any way to be made up, nor was there any assurance that the public would be compensated by a reduction in British freights. Were existing rates to be maintained, and was this saving at the expense of the national purse to pass into the hands of the wealthy shipowning class? The hon. Member for the Aston Division said that His Majesty's ships did not pay light dues, and that it was wrong that the charge for lighting the coasts should be paid by the Mercantile Marine while His Majesty's Navy escaped. But the expense for the Navy was largely incurred for the protection of mercantile shipping, and where would the Mercantile Marine be but for the freedom with which they were allowed to pursue their trade with the assistance of the protection of His Majesty's ships? The hon. Member for the Aston Division said that a national advantage ought to be paid for out of the National Exchequer. That argument could be carried a great deal further than in regard to the payment of the cost of lighting the coasts. An analogous case to this would lie, upon the arguments supporting it, that railway companies should have their lines and stations, which were for the public advantage, lighted free at the national expense. If the claim advanced by the hon. Member for the Aston Division were pressed, many other interests would have an equal right to ask for similar assistance. For his part he believed that this was an inopportune time to make a new and large claim on the public Exchequer. What was wanted at the present time was economy in national expenditure and a reduction in taxation, and this was not the time for relieving a particular interest from an obligation which was an element in the fixing of rates of freight.

MR. JOYCE (Limerick)

said he intended to support the Second Reading of the Bill, although he did not agree with all its provisions. As one who had something to do with ships and shipping, he thought that the charge for supporting the lighthouses should be a national charge, and should not be borne by any particular section of the community. It was a national charge in all other maritime nations; and he did not understand why this country, which presumed to be the leader in everything connected with maritime affairs, should be behind other nations in this matter. He merely wished to enter his protest with reference to the personnel of the Irish Lights Commissioners. He would mention one fact in connection with that Board, He was connected with the harbour authority in his native city; and some years ago they endeavoured to get the Board to put an additional light on the river, where it was much needed. They appealed again and again, but they did not get the slightest satisfaction. There was no satisfaction to be got, even in this House, with regard to the Board, because when a question was put regarding it, the President of the Board of Trade simply said that he was powerless in the matter. The Board ran the machine as they thought fit. They elected their own members when vacancies occurred; and the great ports of Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Londonderry, Galway, and Waterford were not represented, though they had tried to get representation on the Board. If only for the reason that the Bill would put an end to such an obsolete Board, he would support the Second Heading. There were, however, portions of the Bill which should not be pressed too strongly in the Committee, and which could be eliminated with safety and justice. Shipowners claimed the right of representation on these Boards, but if the cost of maintaining the lighthouses became a national charge, shipowners would not have any special claim to representation. The Bill deserved great consideration at the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade; and he hoped that the reply of the Government would be favourable

MR. RENWICK (Newcastle on-Tyne)

said that the hon. Member for West Renfrew objected not only to the principle, but also to the details of the measure, although every Member who had hitherto spoken in the debate had expressed himself in favour of the principle, a few criticisms only being advanced with regard to the details. Having debate I the Bill at such length it was about time that they had some expression of opinion regarding it from the Government; and he hoped that His Majesty's Ministers would not keep the House waiting longer for an expression of their intentions. He ventured to think that the hon. Member for West Renfrew had not listened to all the speeches which were delivered in favour of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman had, he thought he would not have given expression to such remarks as he had. The hon. Gentleman referred to certain Members in recent debates being in favour of economy in connection with the Army, and that they were now asking for further expenditure to be thrown on the taxpayer. He was one who had raised his voice in this House in favour of economy in the Army; but he was equally prepared to advocate that the cost of light dues should be thrown on the taxpayer. As a shipowner he asked for that, not as a favour, but as a right. As a shipowner he wanted no grant or subsidy, and no dole; he simply wanted the State to pay the cost of lighting the coast the same as other nations did.

The hon. Member for West Renfrew said that if the State were to be asked to bear the expense of lighting the coast, why should not railway companies also ask the State to bear the expense of lighting their systems. Railway companies took very good care not to allow another company to use their lines without payment. A railway company having running powers over another company's lines had to pay for the advantage. But all nations had running powers round the coast of this country, they used the lights, and therefore they were entitled to ask that shipowners ought not to be the only people who had to bear the cost. Let the House suppose that this country had not the shipping trade they had at the present time, and that they had not so many ships. The duty would still lie upon the nation to light the coast, and would it be fair to call on the few shipowners who would be available, in those circumstances, to bear this enormous cost? He ventured to think not. He thought the Foreign Office was perfectly well aware of the outcry there was when loss of life and of property occurred when ships were wrecked off some out-of-the-way place, say on the coast of Asia, where there were no lights, a similar outcry would arise if our coasts were left unlighted. When he stood on the coast at Folkestone, and saw the British lights on the one side, and the magnificent French lights on the other, and saw ships passing up and down the Channel, he asked himself why on one side the State should bear the cost, and why on the other side the shipowners. The reason put forward as to why the State ought to undertake this duty had not been answered; and he would be interested to hear the reply His Majesty's Ministers would make. One of the objects of the Bill was to transfer the administration of light dues from Trinity House to the Board of Trade. His hon. friend said he was not in favour of that because at the present time shipowners had a consulting voice on the Trinity House Board. His experience in this House taught him that while speech might be silvern, votes were golden. So it was at Trinity House. For many years Trinity House had administered the light dues. They had gathered money from shipowners, and spent a certain portion of it; but shipowners had no voice in the spending of it. Since 1854, it was stated that they received £2,000,000 sterling more than they expended. What had been done with that money? He had beard a part of it was used for the maintenance of a school; and they were told that a large part of it was spent in giving magnificent feasts, which many hon. Members were pleased to attend, though he personally had never been at one of them. He sincerely trusted that they would hear from His Majesty's Ministers that they would allow the Bill to be read a second time, and to be sent to a Grand Committee. The Chairman of the Subsidies Committee said that they had reported in favour of the principle of the Bill; they also found that Select Committees in 1822, 1834, 1845, and 1860 had all reported in favour of what they now asked for. The fact remained that it was the duty of every civilised nation to light its own coast; and further, it was the duty of every civilised nation to take every precaution to mark, not only by lights, but by beacons and otherwise, all dangerous spots. If a further argument were required it was that His Majesty's ships did not pay light dues. The hon. Member for West Renfrew said that His Majesty's ships were protecting commerce. So they were. But the shipowners were not asked to pay a larger proportion to the cost of the Navy than any other section of the community; and why should they be asked to pay the whole cost of lighting the coast? Yachts and pleasure boats, which no doubt many hon. Members used, paid very little. The fishermen's small boats paid nothing, and large trawlers only paid a small sum. For all the reasons he had mentioned, he appealed to the House to vote for this Bill. They asked it not as a favour, but as a right; and he was not very particular whether they got it this year or next year, as, notwithstanding the depression in trade, they might be able to get over another year under present conditions. He hoped the House would pass the Bill by an overwhelming majority.

SIR J. STIRLING-MAXWELL (Glasgow, College)

said he was not a shipowner, and was not in the fortunate position of being even indirectly interested in the great shipping industry. There was one part of the case advanced in favour of the Bill which seemed to him to be good; and that was the complaint that the Navy did not bear any of the cost of lighting the coast. He should be glad if some arrangement could be made by which the Admiralty would contribute to the cost of lighting the coast. When, however, they were asked at a time such as this, when expenditure was constantly increasing, and when considerable bodies of opinion, to which he did not belong, were in favour of cutting down even what seemed to be the essential expenditure of the country, he did not think that it was time they should be asked to give a very large gift to an industry which appeared to be prosperous and successful. The argument was advanced that a similar charge was borne by the State in foreign countries; but he understood that in foreign countries the shipping interests had very considerable subsidies of other kinds, and the provision of lighting the coast must be regarded as one of them. He could conceive that in this country the shipping industry might require a subsidy also; and, in certain circumstances, it might be to the interests of the country to give it; but let it be given in £. s. d and not given indirectly. The debate had been mainly on one side, because Members who were not interested in shipping did not attend. He hoped the Govern- ment would give a determined negative to the proposal.


said that an observation had been made by more than one speaker, who had spoken in support of this Bill, to the effect that there was an overwhelming body of opinion in the House in favour of its proposals. When he looked round the House a short time ago, at the time those observations were made, he saw how thin the attendance was, and how familiar the faces were to him as being connected with the shipping trade, either as shipowners, or as representatives of shipping ports; and he was not therefore surprised that there was an overwhelming opinion in the House in favour of the Bill. There was one incident which usually occurred on a Friday. Hon. Members who are interested in a proposal which was being put before the House of Commons were much more likely to attend to support it than other hon. Members who are not interested; and the consequence was that, as a rule, a very considerable body of opinion in the House of Commons was expressed in favour of that particular proposal. He was bound to say that there was a great deal that was attractive in the proposals of the Hill. It was always attractive to those interested in a particular industry to endeavour to shift a burden from their own shoulders on to the shoulders of others; and all interested in the trade are very ready to come forward and support such a proposal. A great deal had been said about bad trade, and about shipowners passing-through a period of depression. That was true; but surely it must be within the recollection of the House that that was a mere incident of a year, or, at most, a year and a half. Nobody would deny that previously shipowners enjoyed a period of overwhelming prosperity. The moment there was a slight turn—and it was as inevitable as that the night followed the day that a period of depression would follow a period of prosperity—they asked the House of Commons to relieve them from a burden under which they had been carrying on their trade as long as British shipping had existed. The Bill was composed of two parts although from the Memorandum distri- buted in favour of it one would imagine that the main proposal of the Bill was for administrative changes. It was true that at the end of the Memorandum it was stated that the charges connected with the carrying out of this measure were proposed to be put upon the Treasury. The real object of the Bill was not so much administrative changes, however much they might be desired, as the transfer of the cost of lighting the coast from the shoulders of the shipowners to the shoulders of the British taxpayer. He would, however, say a word upon the proposal with regard to administrative changes. As the House was aware, there were three bodies, apart from the Board of Trade, charged with the administration of the lights around the coast. One was Trinity House, which had supervision over the other authorities, which were the Northern Lights Board and the Irish Lights Board. He protested against what had been said with regard to the manner in which Trinity House expended its funds. It had been suggested that banquets were held out of the money provided by the shipowners. He ought not to allow an observation of that kind to be made without giving it the most Hat contradiction. He did not believe any board, however constituted, could administer the funds placed at their disposal more beneficially for the interests concerned, and more equitably, than the Trinity House Board. The Board was composed entirely of men who thoroughly understood the work they had to do, and whatever might be the opinion of the shipowners with regard to the incidence of the cost, they would, he was sure, acknowledge that the Board performed their work in the most admirable manner, and that the lighting of the coasts was done, so far as the funds at the disposal of the Board permitted, in an efficient manner.

His hon. friend the Member for Aston Manor said that he had it on good authority that, instead of costing the large sums that were now spent in lighting the coast, the work might be carried out for £250,000 or £300,000. His hon. friend did not give the name of that expert, but he himself suspected that he was a shipowner; and he was not at all sure that a shipowner was sufficiently qualified to express an opinion on this subject which was worthy of any weight. It was ridiculous to say that the coast of this country could be lighted for any lesser sum than was now spent. If any charge could fairly be made with regard to the lighting of the coast, it would be that not enough money was spent on it. His hon. friend also said that the cost of lighting the French coast was not so great. That was so; but why? Because the French coast was not so great; and, moreover, a large number of lightships were necessary around the coast in this country which were not employed off the coast of France. The mere assertion as to what might be done if the body were changed might really be put aside by the House when considering this question. Something was said about the Northern Lights Board. It might very well be that it was advisable to make some change in the constitution of that Board, and add to it representatives of bodies now not represented on it. But, speaking with some experience of the work of that Board, which he bad had more than one opportunity of judging when he was at the Board of Trade, he ventured to say that they always did their work in a most admirable manner. The Northern Lights Commissioners, although no doubt mostly legal, were men of affairs who took an immense amount of trouble to see that their work was properly done. He believed that there were complaints with reference to certain parts of the coast which it was thought might be better lighted; but yet, for the amount of money they had to spend no other body could be more economical. With regard to the Irish Lights Board, he confessed that when he was at the Board of Trade he did hear, more than once, a complaint about the constitution of that Board; he was sure no one would be more willing than his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade to admit that it was quite possible that there might well be some change in the constitution of the Board; and that with reference to both the Scottish and Irish Boards an addition of representatives of outside bodies to their numbers might very well be considered.

It should be remembered that a Committee sat and reported in 1896 on this question. It had a most competent chairman, Mr. Courtney, who was at one time a Member of this House, and included several shipowners. They advised certain changes of a very important character. Those changes had been carried out by a Bill which he passed when he was President of the Board of Trade. Every recommendation of that Committee was now law; and one of its recommendations was that the Board of Trade should associate with itself an Advisory Committee in connection with all new works for lighting the coast. That Advisory Committee had been in existence now for several years, and he believed did extremely good work. Whether it had any material effect either on administration or expenditure, one thing was certain—thatit brought together a number of men who thoroughly understood the trade of which they were members. Something had been said with regard to contributions from the Navy. That matter was referred to in the Report of the Committee, and although some of the largest shipowners in the Country were on that Committee they made an unanimous recommendation that, having regard to the services rendered by the Navy to the mercantile marine, they could not recommend any change in the existing state of things. In their opinion no contribution from the Navy was desirable, having regard to the efficient protection which the Navy gave to the mercantile marine. Therefore, if no contribution were laid on the Navy for the lighting of the coast, it was mainly because in considering this matter the Committee, composed as it was very largely of men interested in shipping, recommended that there was no necessity for any contribution from the Navy. The real reason why this Bill was being promoted was not so much because of a desire for any administrative changes as to obtain the transfer of the cost of lighting the coast from the shipowners to the already overburdened taxpayer. It seemed to be assumed that it was the poor shipowner who had to pay the cost. He denied that. The shipowner did not pay the light dues any more than he paid for local lights or dock dues, or any other charges. All these things were matters which were taken into account by the shipowner when he was reckoning up his charges; and to say that the shipowner paid was contrary to the Report of the Committee over which Mr. Courtney presided. All these charges were taken into account by the shipowner when he reckoned up the costs of the ship, and when the shipowners came here and asked to be relieved of this burden, and stated that they were the people who paid, they asserted what in his opinion was contrary to the fact. This was a tax on the trade carried on by their ships, but it did not at all follow that, if the House of Commons resolved to take this burden off the shipowners and put it on to the Imperial Exchequer, the shippers of goods would gain the advantage, in the course of time, no doubt, those who made use of the ships would derive a benefit; but for some considerable period the money which was contributed by the Exchequer would undoubtedly go into the pockets of the shipowners themselves. So that the House of Commons should remember that, if they passed this Bill, what they would do would be to transfer from the shipping industry to the taxpayer the cost which the shipowner now paid for carrying on his trade.

One of the reasons given in support of this change was that, so long as these dues were collected, the United States would retaliate by charging dues on British vessels. He confessed that when he first heard that argument he thought there was a good deal of force in it, but he was now convinced that there was no strength in it. He was convinced that the United States would not be prevented from making those charges unless their ships were relieved not only of these light dues but of all local dues. So long as local dues were collected, even if they abolished the dues of which they were now speaking to-morrow, the United States of America would still take dues on our vessels. Therefore, to make the argument of any real effect it was essential not only that the cost of lighting our coasts, but the cost of these local dues, should be transferred from the shoulders of the shipping industry to those of the taxpayers. Unless that was done the argument, so far as it was any argument at all, fell to the ground. He had already told the House that his right hon. friend would be quite ready to listen to any suggestion that might be made with regard either to the Scotch or the Irish Lights Boards; but that was not what was really wanted by the promoters of the Bill. No doubt they would be glad to have any administrative changes that might be found necessary. But what they really wanted was the transfer of this burden from their own shoulders to the shoulders of the taxpayer; and he would ask the House of Commons whether in the existing state of taxation it was right and proper that so large a sum as £500,000 a year, £170,000 of which was paid by the foreigner, should be added to the already heavily-burdened taxpayer. He would also point out that even if this Bill were read a second time it could only amount to the expression of a pious opinion by the House. The Bill could have no effect, because, on the part of the Government, he declined absolutely to propose to the House that this change of burden should be made. The clause in the Bill which proposed this change was inoperative, as the House knew perfectly well, unless it was moved by a Minister of the Crown; and he could assure the hon. Gentlemen who supported the Bill that the last thing he intended to do was to propose additional burdens on the taxpayers. He hoped it might be his happy lot to take off burdens. That was his desire. It was not his desire, and it certainly was not his intention, to make any proposal to his colleagues which would have the effect of transferring this particular burden from the shoulders of those who now bore it to the shoulders of the taxpayers.

COLONEL DENNY (Kilmarnock Burghs)

said he was not sure that he had ever listened to a speech similar in style and in its conclusion to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by charging shipowners with making loose assertions and went on to make even looser assertions himself. The right hon. Gentleman in reply then said he did not care a rap what the House of Commons said on the matter because he could put a stop to this Bill; but he (Colonel Denny) maintained that no Chancellor of the Exchequer could long stand in the way of the opinion of the House of Commons; if he did he would be liable to removal as an obstruction. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said America would be able to bring arguments to show that they need not take off their rates on our shipping unless authorities in this country took off not only the Government light dues but the local light dues. He (Colonel Denny) wished to observe that the local light dues had nothing whatever to do with it; they were not imposed by the Government, and the law passed by Congress referred explicitly to dues imposed by Governments of foreign countries. The Chancellor of the Exchequer wished them to believe that while the shipowners of this country thought they were being badly treated there was in reality nothing the matter. The condition of the shipping industry was well-known to the President of the Board of Trade, and he thought that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would ascertain how many freight-earning ships were laid up, he would surely be convinced that things were not so bright as he thought. The condition of the shipowning trade had been one of intense competition for many years past. Apart from the question of simple justice, there was no necessity for this tax. It had been avoided by the Government of every other country except that of Turkey. He held in his hand a statement of the respective tonnage dues charged by various countries, which tonnage dues included not only the light dues but also those charged in the country by local dock authorities, and he found that in Antwerp the tonnage dues charged were only one-fifth of the dues charged in London, exclusive of the light dues, in Hamburg they were half, and in Rotterdam they were one-ninth of what were charged in London. This was not a case for hon. Members to get up and talk of the general taxpayer, this was a case in which the shipowner claimed a right to be heard. The hon. Member for Glasgow (College), and another hon. Member who had spoken against the Bill, had carefully avoided the question whether the shipowners ought to bear this burden, and had talked about railways also expecting relief in various directions if shipowners had light dues taken off their shoulders.


I certainly think the shipowners should bear the charge they have to meet now.


proceeded to point out that if the Government would give the shipowners the same strict and legal monopoly as they had granted the railways with respect to freights he did not think the shipowners would object to having to bear this burden. This was a matter of abstract justice. They had here a gigantic trade which was made to pay for the lighting of the coast, which was absolutely necessary for the carrying on of the general trade of the country, of the total value of which freight formed only a small part. It was owing to natural circumstances that these goods could not be brought to tills country otherwise than by water. If there were a tunnel between this country and Ireland all the goods coming from Ireland by way of that tunnel would escape these light dues altogether. He held that these dues were paid by the wrong people, that if not paid by the wrong people they were extravagant, and that if they were not paid by the wrong people and were not extravagant they were collected by the wrong parties. That was what was called in Scotland a succession of pleas in law. The right hon. Gentleman had said that we could not charge the Navy for light dues because a Committee had reported against it, but five Commissions had reported in favour of the abolition of light dues and no action had been taken by the Government. Not a single Member, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had argued against the Bill except on the ground that the Government had not got the money for the purposes under discussion. The House of Commons in this matter should consider whether the taxpayer's interest in this matter should be entirely predominant, or whether as a matter of justice this burden should not be removed from this great industry.


said he would like to say a word or two in support of the Bill, but his views had not been influenced in its favour by the observations of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock. The hon. Member started with a proposition which ought to be traversed at the very outset. He had stated that these duos had not been put upon the consumer, and if the hon. Member had completed that proposition he would have said that they were not borne by the producer either. He thought on the contrary that this burden was borne, and necessarily borne, by the consumer and the producer, and that being so, the policy in this Bill had a great weight of argument in its favour. The burden was borne by the consumer because the amount of these dues was added to the cost of the carriage of the goods, which the consumer had to pay. The charge for transport must directly or indirectly have an influence on the purchase price of the commodity carried, and whether one dealt with railway rates, or freights—and light, harbour, and dock dues, which were added to the freights, the price must be fixed by someone, and, therefore, the consumer who purchased seaborne goods, had to pay not only the price fixed by the exporter on those goods, but also the cost of bringing them to the market at which the consumer purchased them. On that ground, therefore, he did not advance the argument that it was an unjust imposition. On the other hand the producer had equally to pay these dues because, as he understood, light dues were imposed on vessels clearing, just as they were on vessels discharging, and in that way the exporter was compelled to pay dues which were collected at the port of export, but whoever had to pay, it was obviously an addition to the original cost of production plus the cost of carriage. That being the case the question for the House to consider was whether it was desirable or not to remove this imposition. There was nothing unjust in it. The main argument that had been used was that the shipping industry was in distress, but he submitted that the real argument was that the lighting of our shores, and the accommodation of the shipping of the world was a national obligation and it was a duty which the country ought to perform. On that ground he supported the Bill.

MR. BAYLEY (Derbyshire, Chesterfield)

said the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made the astounding statement that whatever vote the House might give the Government would take no notice of it, and would not give the Bill the slightest facilities.


said he did not say anything of the kind. He had said nothing about not giving facilities, but had said that this Bill could not be operative unless the Government moved the financial clause which would give it validity.


asked whether, if there was a majority for the financial clause, the Government would be willing to go on with the Bill.


Certainly not.


said the first clause alone would supply him with a justification for supporting the Bill. He believed in making the Government itself directly responsible for the control of our coasts. They relieved the shipowners, but those who had the freights would get the benefit. It was the duty of the Government to keep the sea open for all. He hoped they would reconsider their decision. When he heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say he would not give the Bill the slightest assistance, he began to think he was living in the age of the Stuarts, when the Crown tried to do what certainly the Government were not strong enough to do to-day. The sailors of this country did not believe that their great nation was doing all it could for the protection of their lives in properly lighting our coasts. There was consequently a strong feeling at the back of this Bill, which he hoped would be accepted.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes,

Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Helme, Norval Watson Reed, Sir Edw. Jas. (Cardiff)
Asher, Alexander Horner, Frederick William Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries
Baird, John George Alexander Hoult, Joseph Remnant, Jas. Farquharson
Barran, Rowland Hirst Houston, Robert Paterson Renwick, George
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Jacoby, James Alfred Rickett, J. Compton
Bignold, Arthur Jones, David B. (Swansea) Ridley, Hon M. W. (Stalybridge
Buxton, Sydney Charles Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Caldwell, James Kimber, Henry Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Causton, Richard Knight King, Sir Henry Seymour Robson, William Snowdon
Cawley, Frederick Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm. Roe, Sir Thomas
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Laurie, Lieut.-General Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Lawrence, Sir Jos. (Monm'th) Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Layland-Barratt, Francis Russell, T. W.
Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S. Leigh, Sir Joseph Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles
Cremer, William Randal Leng, Sir John Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight
Crombie, John William Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S. Seton-Karr, Sir Henry
Crooks, William Lonsdale, John Brownlee Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)
Cust, Henry John C. Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth) Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Macdona, John Cumming Shipman, Dr. John G.
Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardign M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Denny, Colonel Manners, Lord Cecil Taylor, Austin (East, Toxteth)
Doxford, Sir Wm. Theodore Mildmay, Francis Bingham Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)
Duke, Henry Edward Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Tuke, Sir John Batty
Elibank, Master of Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen Walker, Col. William Hall
Evans, Sir F. H. (Maidstone) Myers, William Henry Wallace, Robert
Faber, George Denison (York) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)
Farquharson, Dr. Robert Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Wason, E. (Clackmannan)
Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill Palmer, Sir C. M. (Durham) White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton Partington, Oswald Willox, Sir John Archibald
Hall, Edward Marshall Paulton, James Mellor Wilson, A. Stanley York, E. R.
Hamilton, Marq. of (Londondy Perks, Robert William Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Harris, Frederick Leverton Pilkington, Lt.-Col. Richard
Harwood, George Pirie, Duncan V. TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Charles M'Arthur and Mr. Runciman.
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D. Pym, C. Guy
Heath, James (Staffs., N. W.) Rea, Russell
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Dalkeith, Earl of Labouchere, Henry
Aird, Sir John Dalrymple, Sir Charles Lambert, George
Allen, Chas P. (Glos., Stroud) Dalziel, James Henry Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow
Allsopp, Hon. George Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.) Lawson, John Grant
Anstruther, H. T. Doogan, P. C. Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage
Arkwright, John Stanhope Duncan, J. Hastings Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Dunn, Sir William Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham
Atherley-Jones, L. Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Lowe, Francis William
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. Hart Lundon, W.
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas M'lver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh, W
Austin, Sir John Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed. Malcolm, Ian
Bain, Colonel James Robert Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man'r Martin, Richard Biddulph
Balcarres, Lord Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriesshire
Balfour, Rt. Hon A. J. (Manch'r Fisher, William Hayes Mitchell, William (Burnley)
Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose Morrell, George Herbert
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Flower, Ernest Morrison, James Archibald
Bartley, Sir George C. T. Forster, Henry William Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer
Boland, John Fyler, John Arthur Mount, William Arthur
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Garfit, William Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.
Brown, Sir Alx. H. (Shropsh.) Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute
Cameron, Robert Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nrn Newdegate, Francis A. N.
Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasg.) Goulding, Edward Alfred Nicholson, William Graham
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs Nolan, Col. John P. ((Galway, N.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon J. (Birm Guthrie, Walter Murray Nolan, Joseph (Louth, S.)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Ld. G. (Midx O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)
Chapman, Edward Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny
Charrington, Spencer Howard, Jno (Kent, Faver'hm O'Kelly, J. (Roscommon, N.
Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham O'Malley, William
Crass, H. Shepherd (Bolton) Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop Percy, Earl
Crossley, Sir Savile Knowles, Lees Ratcliff, R. F.

103; Noes, 114. (Division List No. 56.)

Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)
Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield) Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ. Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Robertson, H. (Hackney) Thornton, Percy M. Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart
Roche, John Valentia, Viscount Yoxall, James Henry
Rose, Charles Day Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Sharpe, William Edward T. Wason, J. Cathcart (Orkney) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir
Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich) Welby, Lt.-Col A. C. E. (Taunton John Stirling - Maxwell
Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset) Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.) and Sir Charles Renshaw.
Stanley, Lord (Lancs) Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.