§ Order for Consideration, as amended, read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill, as amended, be now considered."117
§ MR. ROBSON (South Shields),
in moving that this Bill be considered this day three months, said nobody could feel more strongly than himself the inadvisability of interfering with a decision arrived at by a private Bill Committee; but, where a so-called private Bill affected the rights of the King's subjects as a whole of any considerable class like seamen, who depended upon this House for their protection, the House, he submitted, was bound to consider the decision arrived at by the Committee before they sanctioned a Bill which interfered with their rights. The complaint against this Bill was that by virtue of its provisions it would operate so as to lessen the amount of accommodation allowed to the crews of British ships, and lessen the amount of working and breathing space in which engineers, firemen, and the like, had to live and carry on their employment. Obviously such a thing ought not to be done by a private Bill. This Bill, promoted by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, proposed to alter the basis upon which dues now levied on ships entering the docks were calculated. According to the present system they were calculated and levied on the net tonnage. It was now proposed to alter that system and charge not upon the net tonnage, but on 50 per cent. of the gross tonnage, with the proviso that where the cargo-carrying power exceeded 50 per cent. of the gross tonnage the dues would be levied on the net. There were many cases where the net tonnage of stuffs was less than 50 per cent. of the gross, which allowed for a larger amount of space for the crews and the propelling power, and the result of this alteration would be that the owner who had up to now only paid dues on the profit-bearing portion of his ships would have to pay on the nonprofit-bearing portion as well, and the ultimate result would be a tendency to contract the accommodation given to the crews.
During the last few years the amount of space given to crews bad been greatly increased; the stoke-hole was less a travelling inferno than it was, though now it was bad enough, though with more space came better ventilation and more light and air, and better conditions for working in. It was not the need of revenue which impelled the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board to this step. The idea was that the 118 present mode of calculation favoured the fast ships at the expense of the slow; that the net tonnage register of the great liners was very low, owing to the amount of space given to other purposes; that they paid less than other ships, and that all should be put on an equality. The principle of equality was a very fine principle, but he submitted that the matter should. be carefully considered before the principle was applied to the great liners, because although they might pay less on the average than other ships they were able to make a great many more voyages, and if the amount of dues paid by great liners over a certain period of time were compared with those paid by other ships it would be found that they paid far more than the slower ships, owing to the more frequent voyages they made. The present statutory requirements for the accommodation of crews on board ships were extremely low, the statutory minimum being seventy-two cubic feet for each man, and there was a natural objection to legislation for increasing that minimum in face of the fact that there was a voluntary effort on the part of shipowners to increase the air space and give sometimes 150 or 200, and sometimes even 250, cubic feet of air space to each man. It was not desirable to check this tendency. He did not doubt that by providing more breathing space one motive was to get a better class of men, and if that was so, that was a motive to be encouraged, a motive that ought not to be penalised or impeded by any alteration in the existing law. It was obvious that if dues were paid on gross tonnage less air space would be allowed. And that was what this Bill proposed to do. He was the more emboldened to take the course he was now taking in asking the House to consider this question, because of what the Committee had themselves stated; they had themselves entered a little caveat against the decision of the House. While finding the preamble of the Bill proved their decision was that the question of harbour dues should be the subject of legislation initiated by the Board of Trade. The Committee had done their duty in coming to a decision, and more than their duty, in indicating to the House that this was a matter more for the House than the Committee to deal with. They were unanimously of opinion that the matter 119 should no longer be left in the hands of the Committees on Private Bills, but should be the subject of general legislation initiated by the Board of Trade. It was not an easy matter to get legislation in regard to seamen or anything else, but until they could get general legislation the House would see that the fairest thing was to leave matters as they stood.
§ * MR. CHARLES CRAIG (Antrim, S.)
in seconding the Amendment, said that he opposed the Bill on the ground that it would interfere with the Irish traffic with Liverpool, and because of the effect which the provisions of the Bill, if passed, would have on the crew space in steamships on account of the great competition now existing. Anything which had that tendency ought to be viewed by the House with very great caution and suspicion. It seemed to him clear that the Board of Trade was the proper authority to initiate any legislation dealing with this subject, and not a private dock and harbour authority. Liverpool was the second port of the kingdom, and if the rule was once laid down that Liverpool should be allowed to charge dues on the lines of this Bill the practice would be followed by every port of the kingdom, who would at once ask for similar powers. If there was to be any alteration in the law it should be initiated by the Board of Trade. He did not think that anybody needed to pin their faith to any statement of his. It was only necessary to read the Report of the Committee that sat on this Bill. They practically said to the promoters of the Bill, We will allow you to have the Bill this time, but it must not happen again." This was a matter which should be dealt with by general legislation and a private Bill before a Committee was not the proper place for dealing with a subject of this kind. He begged to second the Motion.
§ Amendment proposed—
§ "To leave out the word 'now,' and add the words upon this day three months."—(Mr. Robson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ * MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)
felt that a somewhat 120 invidious task rested upon him as one of the Members for Liverpool to oppose this Bill, which was promoted by a body in Liverpool for which he had great respect. The present Bill was open to very great objections upon grounds of public policy, and, while he admitted that the Bill had a beneficial object to serve, he believed that object could be better obtained by other means than by a private Bill. No doubt it would be said that it was somewhat unusual to oppose a private Bill which had already passed through its various stages, but he submitted that there were reasons why that course should be adopted on the present occasion. He thought the House was justified in reconsidering the Bill, because the Chairman of the Select Committee had given a very qualified Report in regard to it. That Report had expressed the opinion that the anomalies in regard to shipping dues should be corrected by general legislation initiated by the Board of Trade. This Bill involved a principle of great importance to the merchant shipping of this country and also of other countries, because it proposed to change the principle on which the measurement of tonnage had been computed from the net system to the gross system. The net tonnage was clearly intended to represent the earning capacity of the ship, and that was the system adopted by every important maritime country in the world. It was admitted that there were anomalies attending the present system. Extreme cases had been dealt with by the Board of Trade who had passed the necessary regulations. Larger and faster steamers must, of course, have more room for crew and engineers, and, therefore, the tonnage must be smaller, and the situation which that created was, he considered, one that ought to be dealt with by the Board of Trade by means of a Departmental Committee. The Cunard steamers visited the port of Liverpool often, and, although cargo steamers paid more, still the frequent visits of the former equalised that, and besides, as they carried little tonnage, they did not require the same amount of dock and shed accommodation. These large mail steamers could not be built upon commercial lines, and if it was desirable to have some such vessels under the British flag, some consideration 121 must be allowed them. That was the reason why such steamers got a subsidy.
The proposal in the Bill was that no ship should pay less than 50 per cent. of the gross tonnage. He found, from evidence given before the Committee on behalf of the Mersey Board that what was desired was equality; but this proposal would not establish equality, but would increase diversity in tonnage basis as between the various classes of vessels. The Board of Trade instead of grasping the nettle, had only made a half-hearted attempt to deal with it, having allowed a number of port authorities to obtain Private Acts enabling them to levy dues on proportions of the gross tonnage of vessels varying from 33⅓to 50 per cent. This had been chiefly for the relief of small ports, which were not able to pay their way. He argued that what was necessary in the case of small ports was not necessary in the case of Liverpool. There was no fear of Liverpool not being able to pay its way. According to last year's report the income of the Mersey Board was £1,320,125, and the tonnage and harbour dues £646,415. Was it worth while to disturb the arrangement exiting in Liverpool? This question was one of important public policy. So long as it was confined to small ports it did not matter; but here they were dealing with a great port, and if the exception asked was granted to Liverpool, how could great ports? He thought, therefore, it would be most undesirable to consent. He did not attach so much importance to the point raised by the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, and he did not think the change, if made, especially no doubt an owner might, especially in bad times, desire to economise by limiting or perhaps reducing the crew accommodation and the light and air spaces. He trusted the Board of Trade would take the matter in hand, and constitute a Departmental committee to go into the whole question.
§ * SIR CHARLES CAYZER (Barrow-in-Furness)
said that both the hon. Member for South Shields who moved the rejection of the Bill and the last speaker who seconded it had stated their object- 122 tions to the Bill very fairly, and the former in spite of his knowledge of shipping being of an amateur character. If he thought that the change proposed in the tonnage would reduce the crew the space he would not support the Bill, which he admitted was a complicated one, and in regard to which issues which were raised which were not consequent on the Bill. The principle of the Bill, he claimed, was one of equity. It was to equalise the rates at which dock dues were charged so that each class of ship frequenting the port should contribute its fair proportion of dues, which at present were charged the net register tonnage of the ship arrived at after deducting the space which was occupied by the crew and the engine-room space from the gross tonnage. What were the objections? That it would tend to reduce the crew space, and that the change should be made by public Bill. There were two classes of ships which did not pay their fair share of dock dues, one the large fast passenger liners, and the other a number of coasting steamers. The inequality of tonnage on which dues were charged was caused by the fact that the large steamers required larger spaces for crew and servants and engine-room than was needed by the ordinary type of steamer, which being deducted from the gross tonnage caused a larger reduction in the nett tonnage. For example, there was the "Campania," belonging to the Cunard Line, with a gross register tonnage of 12,950 tons, whilst its net tonnage was 4,974 tons. Then there was the "Rowanmore," a cargo steamer, with a gross tonnage of 9,456 and a net tonnage of 6,158. The large passenger ship paid on 1,184 tons less than the ordinary cargo ship, but, being deeper, required more expenditure for dredging and larger accommodation, and entailed more expense on the dock authorities. He was certain that no port had done more to give facilities for large fast steamers than the port of Liverpool. In promoting the Bill the Dock Board had followed the advice of the Board of Trade. Both the hon. Member for Croydon and the present President of the Board of Trade distinctly stated that they would not introduce public legislation which the hon. Member for Liverpool now so earnestly. 123 advocated to adjust the inequality in the dock charges, and stated it was for the Dock Board to get the change made by a Bill of their own.
Replying to the hon. Member for Cork on 29th July, 1902, the President of the Board of Trade stated that the registered tonnage of British ships was ascertained by rules laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act, and there was no fixed rates between registered tonnage and carrying capacity. It was open to harbour authorities, he added, by means of local Acts, to endeavour to obtain powers to levy dues, based on the proportion of the gross instead of on the net tonnage. Asked by the hon. Member for King's Lynn if he would support any such application, the President of the Board of Trade said that in almost every, if not in every, case he had supported such an application. He wished to ask his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade if he was now going to support the application in this Bill. This Bill followed entirely on the lines of the advice given by the Board of Trade. If his right hon. friend had altered his opinion he would no doubt say so. If not, he claimed the right hon. Gentleman's vote in support of the Bill. The case had been exhaustively considered by Committee presided over by the hon. Member for Northwich, which came to a conclusion in favour of the Bill and stated it would not have the effect of curtailing the space for the crew, but would equalise the dock rates. The objections to the Bill were chiefly raised at the instigation of the Cunard Company. It was said that the Cunard mail steamers used the port more frequently than the cargo boats, and, therefore, paid more dues in the aggregate. But as ship-owners they knew that ships went to ports because they had cargoes to take there, and, therefore, the frequency of their visits was not an argument against their paying dues on a fair and just scale as they had an earning return for each visit. It was true that the large Cunarders carried very little cargo, but they had a much more remunerative freight in the passengers they carried, and when that was put forward as an excuse he did not think the House should listen to it. It was said that the development of high-speed ships was of national importance. 124 He agreed. But why should the Liverpool Dock Board be called upon to contribute Ito this national object by foregoing part of the dues to which they were entitled on the fast ships? The argument did not hold good in the case of the Cunard Company. Surely they might be expected to pay their fair share of the dock dues, when last year Parliament granted them, for two ships, a subsidy of £150,000, and lent them £2,500,000 at 2¾ per cent. It was inconceivable that they should come forward under these circumstances and object to this Bill. Was it right that a company largely subsidised by the Government for the sake of saving a paltry £2,500 a year which they legitimately ought to pay should oppose this Bill?
Another objection was that the Bill would have the elect of considerably curtailing the crew and engine-room space. Honestly, he did not think the fears of the Sailors' and Firemen's Union on this point were well founded. The majority of shipowners gave a larger crew space than the statute required, and he hoped they would always do so. The Board of Trade expert, Captain Chalmers, made a most unwarrantable statement to the Committee when he said that if the Bill were passed it would tend to induce shipowners to take advantage of it to reduce the space for the crews. He protested against that unjustifiable accusation from a Board of Trade official against British shipowners. He was much surprised that the Cunard Company should have circulated such a report as a reason for getting off paying their fair share of Liverpool dock dues. The comfort and welfare of the crew was the shipowner's chief care, and he challenged the President of the Board of Trade to confirm the imputation made by the official of his Department who gave evidence before the Committee that they neglected their duty in this respect. If such an inducement existed, it could apply only to a few of the high speed passenger ships, because, with the exception of these ships, nearly all the vessels frequenting the port had a net tonnage of over 50 per cent. of the gross, and the average was between 64 per cent. and 68 per cent. It was said that the alteration of net tonnage was an international question, and that foreign countries might, if 125 a change of this kind was sanctioned, alter their dock dues in foreign ports to the disadvantage of British shipowners. But this argument could not apply to Liverpool, for there was not a single foreign ship trading to Liverpool which would be affected by the Bill. Such an objection, if it was valid, should have been urged before. Why had it been left to this late hour, after the Dock Board m ere allowed to go to all the expense of promoting the Bill at the invitation of the Board of Trade. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would be able to offer some explanation of the matter, and he asked the House to support the decision of the Committee.
§ * MR. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said that when this question came up ten days ago he approached it without prejudice. He supported this Bill on the principles of common justice, and if he thought the hon. and learned Member for South Shields had a scintilla of evidence for his suggestion that the Bill would operate to the prejudice of the seamen, he would have no hesitation in voting against it. The three speeches against the Bill had been in one way or another destructive of each other. The hon. Member for Ulster forgot, when he opposed the Bill, that nine Irish ports had already obtained the very power for which the Dock Board now asked. Were the interests of the seamen prejudiced every time a steamer entered one of these ports I Therefore the sailors in the steamers which entered Liverpool would he treated no worse than if they entered,one of these Irish ports. This Bill was promoted by a board with a most honourable career, manned by the most careful and thoughtful men in the trading community, of Liverpool. Was it likely that they would, even to promote justice between different classes of shipowners, act unjustly or prejudicially to the interests of the sailors? The Bill would effect only one-tenth of all the ships that entered the port of Liverpool. This Bill was promoted in the interests of justice in the matter of taxation on the various ship-owners. It was the case that the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to equalise taxation among the different, classes of people he had to tax, and this Bill was promoted for that end, and for no other purpose. This Bill 126 had come into being after the repeated, continual, and persistent action and pronouncements of the Board of Trade itself. That very afternoon the House had passed a Bill in favour of the Port of Llanelly exactly enacting the principles which apparently now the President of the Board of Trade was going to refuse. Where was the consistency of such action? Not until Thursday, the 9th of June, without any notice, official or unofficial, did the Board of Trade come down and criticise this Bill, and it was not on the ground that a public Bill was the right method of dealing with this question, but the idea was that the Bill affected light and air space, and was detrimental to the sailors. Of course that was absurd inconsistency, seeing that the Board had been responsible for twenty-five Acts on Provisional Orders authorising the scheme. Having regard to the great difficulty of any legislation in that House, and looking to the great time that must elapse before this eminently absurd system of measuring could be remedied, was if not right, if the principle was not wrong, that this method should be advanced by a private Bill. Seeing that Liverpool shipping was practically a microcosm of the shipping of the United Kingdom he thought it might very well be allowed to extend this principle by means of a private Bill.
The hon. Member for the Exchange Division affirmed the desirability an the importance of the advance of fast-going ships, but why should they put it on fellow shipowners, on great dock and private corporations, to pay the expense of enabling these great experiments in transport to be carried out? If that was a matter of national importance, it ought to take the form of a national subsidy. It was not the risk that sailors coming out of Irish and Welsh ports ran that had induced the representative of the Board of Trade to come down; but it looked as if there was a personal buttonholing on the part of certain people that had set the Board of Trade in motion. The House had already heard of the gross mismeasurements, which amounted to a grievous injustice on a certain class of shipping, and the Board of Trade would agree that those measurements were unjustifiable. It was reasonable that the Board of Trade shou'd allow this Bill 127 to go forward, and then at their convenience, when they had considered the matter, bring in their public Bill. That would he a much more reasonable way to proceed in regard to this matter. There had already been a large amount of public money spent owing to the laches or imperfect appreciation of their duties on the part of the Board of Trade. The Dock Board was not allowed to make a shilling of profit, which all went to the improvement of the docks, and under these circumstances it was rather hard that this carefully-administered Board should have to waste public money promoting a Bill which had passed through four Committees, and then, when it reached the final stage, the House of Commons should be asked to reject it. It was very hard that the labour of years should be thrown away because the Board of Trade had woke up at the last hour to new interests and new responsibilities.
§ * MR. RUNCIMAN (Dewsbury)
did not want, like Mr. Lawrence, to wander into the merits of the Cunard Company or their action in the House of Commons; nor was it his duty to defend the attitude of the Board of Trade in this matter. His own interests were in no wise touched by the Bill one way or the other, and he, therefore, disclaimed any personal considerations in the attitude which he had adopted. He saw no reason for dragging the Cunard Company into the discussion. The Cunard Company were a firm of the greatest responsibility, and they had done great service to the mercantile marine of this country, as had all the other great lines of which we wore so proud. They were an extremely pushing firm, and when they found that their interests were affected they made such protests before the Private Bill Committee as were open to every class of citizens. He thought no complaint could be brought against them for the action they had taken when they found that their interests would be injuriously affected by this Bill. Nor did he think it at all fair that the Cunard Company should be blamed for the course they had taken in this matter because they were shortly to be in receipt of a subsidy from the Government. He ventured to think that that was an insinuation which this House would not tolerate. 128 After all, the American fast liner was not the only class of vessel which would be affected by this change. The small traders would be affected in even a larger degree. The estimate was that if this Bill were passed it would mean £17,000 per annum, and of that the Cunard Company would be responsible for not more than £2,500. The rest would be paid by a few other large steamers, and a very large number of coasting craft. Nor was he disposed to say that the members of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board had not done their duty in promoting the Bill, and their success up to the present had justified their action. This was a matter that concerned more than the Mersey, because the whole question of the assessment of merchant tonnage, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over the world, was involved. He was quite prepared to believe that there were a number of tonnage cheaters, and that there were a few extreme freaks which, carrying, say, 300 or 400 tons, managed to get under an artificial rule and to escape on nineteen or twenty-five tons register. These freaks had been dealt with to some extent already by the Board of Trade regulations. If this Bill were an attempt to catch them and them alone, he should be no party to opposing it. But this only went to prove how artificial the scale was as a whole. How artificial it was Members of this House scarcely realised. He did not pretend to say anything which was not well known to every shipowner and shipping man here, but he wondered how many Members of the House could give a definition of dead weight ton, cubic ton, and gross ton. He ventured to think that there were not a dozen who could give an accurate definition of what these terms meant. The tonnage on which dues were paid was extremely complicated, and the artificial scale was altogether out of date, as was shown by the definition for drawing up the net tonnage of steamships in the United Kingdom. He took only the case of steamships in order to point out how enormously complicated the question was—As to screw steamers the space actually occupied by the boilers and machinery was to be measured, and if this space equalled 13 per cent., but did not equal 20 per cent., the ship was to be allowed a combination for engines, 129 boilers, and fuel 32 per cent. of the gross tonnage as a deduction from that tonnage to arrive at the net register tonnage. This was supposed to represent the capacity of the vessel. If the space occupied by the machinery and boilers equalled or exceeded 20 per cent. of the gross tonnage, then instead of applying the rule just quoted, they were to be allowed the space actually occupied and 75 per cent. of such space in addition.He put it to the House that that was a purely artificial way of arriving at the assessable value of the various vessels concerned. It was true that the application of this assessment had been duly considered by the Committee over which his hon. friend presided, but now they had a claim put forward by the hon. Member who had just sat down, that in this matter the House should follow the precedent set in the case of Llanelly He did not know where Llanelly was, though he knew most of the good ports of the United Kingdom. He supposed it was somewhere in Wales, and he believed it was a small port; that was to say, in comparison with the great ports of the United Kingdom it was a small port. Would the hon. Member say that what was done at Llanelly was sufficient as a precedent in the case of Liverpool?
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
said he would point out how the principle differed. It was absolutely necessary in the case of some small ports that they should be treated on such a basis as to make them, so far as one could consider them in a mercantile sense, a success. The only way of making the port of Llanelly a success was by allowing an assessment which had not been allowed except in a few ports with which he would deal. He would read the list. There was Rothesay, which had a 40 per cent. limitation. Rothesay was an important yachting centre, but it was not an important mercantile port. There was the case of Greenock, but there the limitation of 40 per cent. applied only to local traffic. There was Lame, which was a most important port, but it was not to be compared with Liverpool. Kilkeel, in county Down, was a comparatively small port. Stromness, Buckie, and Wick, were all 130 very small ports, and the idea of quoting them as precedents for the port of Liverpool was purely ridiculous. Let him point to some of the ports which had received a 50 per cent. allowance. The most important was Swansea. That was the only considerable port in the United Kingdom where a 50 per cent. allowance had been given, and if the Board of Trade allowed it to pass he had no doubt they were capable of explaining their action. Cardiff was 40 per cent. Barrow 40 per cent.; Dublin, Cork, Dundalk, Limerick, and Galway were all ports where 50 per cent. was adopted. In every one of those cases local considerations wholly weighed. The international considerations raised in the case of Liverpool did not apply to them. It was absurd to quote those minor ports and the fishing ports of Scotland as precedents for Liverpool. If this Bill went through in its present form every port in the United Kingdom would come to Parliament applying for powers on exactly the same basis. [An HON. MEMBER: Why should they not?] If the proposals in the Bill were adopted it would mean the removal of the tonnage assessment from a net-register basis to a gross-register basis. No one except those connected with shipping would know what an enormous change that meant. It might be a good or a bad system. He was not arguing for or against it, but it was not by a private Bill of this character that the proposal to make the change should be brought before Parliament, or become a means of general legislation. If there was an advantage to be derived by harbour authorities from the adoption of this limitation he was sure that those of northern Europe, where the ports to a certain extent came into competition with our own, would not be slow to adopt this basis. If we adopted this basis they would probably do so also, because up to the present the British example had always been followed abroad.
The point he wished next to deal with was whether a Private Bill Committee was the proper body to deal with an immense national and international question of this kind. Might he point out that the Members of the Committee who considered this Bill were not equipped with the technical 131 knowledge necessary to enable them to know how far their decision was likely to carry them? Nor could it be said that they were in any way representative. This question was one which touched the whole mercantile marine of the United Kingdom, representing roughly from £120,000,000 to £150,000,000 sterling. It affected also the mercantile marine of other nations. Nor did he think that the Committee could have been equipped with the requisite knowledge to decide on a great technical change of this kind. The complexities of the question were so great that, when they had arrived at a definition of tonnage. they had by no means got to the end. The theory on which it was based was not a question on which any Private Bill Committee could come to a decision which ought really to set an example to the mercantile marine of the world. The question was one to engage the attention of a strong Committee or Commission equipped with full technical knowledge, and representing shipowners, traders, harbour authorities, and seamen. It was a question as between ship and ship, as well as between shipowners and dock owners; it affected an enormous number of vessels constructed in conformity with existing rules; and a Bill of this kind would certainly have an effect in reducing crew space to a minimum and increasing the earning capacity of a ship. Further, it would open the door to retaliatory measures in foreign ports, which we certainly should endeavour to avoid.
§ * MR. HOUSTON (Liverpool, West Toxteth),
speaking as a Liverpool man, said that he was in no way connected with the Mersey Dock Board, and that he held no brief from them. He was certainly under no obligation to them with regard to the character of the accommodation which they had afforded to his fleet. He was not speaking out of any sympathy with them, but rather as representing the great body of Liverpool shipowners and the Liverpool Shipowners' Association, who were mostly supporters of the Bill, the exception in this matter being the Cunard Line, with regard to whom, however, he should not make any uncomplimentary remarks, although it would be necessary for him to refer to them. The constitution of the Dock 132 Board, it was necessary the House should understand, was that, having no capital they paid no dividend, any profits that might accrue being applied in reduction of duties or the carrying out of improvements. A great deal of such expenditure had been caused by, and was made in consequence of, the larger Transatlantic ships, which needed deep water and large dock accommodation, involving the removal of the obstacle at the bar, and the building of the largest landing-stage of its kind in the world. About £8,500,000 had been so spent. Large cargo steamers, he asserted, were of more importance to Liverpool than the liners, because they carried cargoes both in and out, and gave employment in the docks to large numbers of hands, who were not needed for the passenger steamers. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division had stated that the exact contrary was the case, but then he did not know very much about the subject. It was, in fact, an anomaly that the passenger ships should occupy more dock space and cause more expense and, at the same time, not be required to pay a fair proportion. Ninety per cent. of the steamers using the port paid up to 64 per cent., and here the Cunard Company was only asked to pay 50 per cent. of the gross tonnage. He believed it would be a fatal mistake to undertake shipping legislation of the kind suggested by his hon. friend. The White Star Line did not object; in fact, there was no objection to the Bill, save by the Cunard Company and small coasting steamers, and it would not affect a single foreign steamer using the Port. If they altered the law of tonnage measurement international questions would be raised to the detriment of British shipping. The whole subject was one upon which lie thought he might claim a right to speak with some authority, for he had worked in the inferno of the engine-room, and had, at an early age, been superintendent engineer of an Atlantic Line. The Bill would have no bearing whatever on about 90 per cent. of the tonnage of the port. It applied only to high-speed steamers and coasting steamers.
With regard to the attitude of the Irish Members, it illustrated their usual tactics; 133 they always supported anything that would favour an Irish port. As to the Scotch coasting owners, Scotchmen had a reputation of looking after themselves. The gross register was obtained by measuring the internal capacity of the ship below the upper deck, and all the erections above it. The net register was obtained by deducting from the gross tonnage first the machinery space. Now when this space, not including bunkers, was between 13 and 20 per cent., a deduction of 32 per cent of the gross tonnage was allowed. When this space was over 20 per cent of the gross, a deduction of one and three-quarter times this actual space was allowed. The machinery space so measured included the light and air space above the upper deck, but did not include any of the bunkers which were supposed to be provided for in the extra three-quarters per cent. allowed in the deduction. A further deduction was made for crew space, the whole of which was measured and deducted from the gross, provided that it was not less than seventy-two cubic feet per man, and twelve superficial feet of deck space per man. This deck was measured clear of obstruction, and in all modern ships, where the decks were more than six feet in height, it must necessarily result in more than seventy-two cubic feet per man, and as the crew were usually housed in a forecastle forward or on the poop aft where the sides flared out as they rose, the actual cubic capacity arising from the twelve superficial feet of deck space was very largely increased. The effect of the proposed Bill to charge not less than 50 per cent. of the gross tonnage would have no application to about 90 per cent. of the tonnage used in the port of Liverpool. Its application was only to high-speed passenger steamers and to coasting 134 steamers. The effect of the Mersey Board's Bill upon high-speed passenger steamers might be explained as follows. Under the net-register system the inducement to reduce light and air space was practically as great as it would be under the Mersey Board Bill. The light and air space was the volume, above the upper deck, of the openings over the engines and boilers. At present this volume multiplied by one and three-quarters was deducted from the tonnage, and at 1s. 4d. per ton (the Mersey Board charge) this deduction amounted to 2s. 4d. for every ton (100 cubic feet) of space appropriated for light and air. The argument that the light and air space would be reduced in order to reduce gross tonnage would not hold, because whatever the light and air space might be, it was in the owner's option not to have it measured, so that he could not reduce his gross tonnage by reducing his light and air space. In fact, as far as adding to gross tonnage was concerned, he might make the addition absolutely nil (whatever its actual amount might be) by not having it measured. It was in the shipowner's option. As to the part of the machinery space below the upper deck, the shipowner must have sufficient for his machinery. If he had more than was necessary, he would gain 2s. 4d. for every 100 cubic feet by reducing tonnage. But space in a passenger ship was worth much more than this. Take the case of a passenger cabin. For every passenger more than 100 cubic feet were required. Each passenger would certainly earn many times 2s. 4d., the amount of tonnage dues paid for 100 cubic feet, and paid only once per round voyage. It was not unreasonable then to assume that four times in a year the extra 100 cubic feet would he filled with passengers earning at least £20 as against say twelve 135 or even twenty-four voyages, on which tonnage dues would be paid at 2s. 4d. per 100 cubic feet, amounting to 28s. or 56s. reapectively. Consequently under both the present system and the one now proposed, the inducement to reduce light and air space was practically the same, and was only limited by the engineering requirements. With reference to space occupied below the living spaces, the same considerations applied, except that instead of being able to make use of the space for passengers, it was available for cargo. Every hundred cubic feet given to machinery space saved 2s. 4d. per ton in dues, but lost two-and a-half tons of measurement, which would earn in a round voyage to New York and back at least £1. Another way of putting it was that 2s. 4d. on 100 cubic feet was 11¼d. saved on forty cubic feet, which on a round voyage would give 5⅝d. on the ton of forty cubic feet space. This was obviously very much less than freight earned by this space, which amounted to more shillings earned than the pence saved in dues.
With reference to the coasting steamers, they might be considered as in two classes. First, those which were general cargo and passenger ships, in which space was of great value, and to which all the foregoing arguments equally applied. The inducements to cut down light and air, machinery and crew space were limited by the loss of earnings. Coasting dues were, however, only 4½d. per 100 cubic feet, and earning space was many times more valuable, as this only worked out at l¾d. per measurement ton of 40 cubic feet. The other class of coasters was that which carried deadweight cargoes. In these vessels there was always space to spare, and it would not add to the earnings of the 136 shipowner to reduce machinery or crew space, as he could do nothing with the space so saved. With reference to the erections above the upper deck, which it was alleged were due to the present beneficent Act, it might be noted that these erections had been put on modern coasters, because the freeboard might be thereby reduced, and the deadweight carrying increased. If to reduce gross tonnage these erections were done away with, the vessels would have to reduce their weight-carrying, and consequently their earning power, and this reduction or loss would be much more than any saving in tonnage dues.
§ * SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said it was his duty to tell the House the view taken by the Committee over which he had the honour to preside. He wanted the House to understand that when this proposal of the Mersey Harbour Board came before Parliament it was by no means the beginning of the discussion as to the rating of steamers in Liverpool for dock dues. The subject had been discussed for many years in Liverpool. The Mersey Board was not a money-making body; it was interested only in improving the facilities of the port. It was constituted to represent all the authorities and public bodies in the city, while twenty members were shipowners, merchants, and dock-ratepayers. There were representatives of the coasting steamers, of the Cunard Company, and of every class of steamer trading to the port; and it was the proposals of such a board which came before the House. The Committee had considered it their duty to make what was called a special Report, because they contemplated the likelihood of all the other port authorities applying for similar 137 powers. His hon. and learned friend the Member for South Shields had, with his highly trained and amiable intellect, conveyed an interpretation of that Report which was by no means before the mind of the Committee. He said that the Committee did not consider themselves competent to deal with this question and had relegated it to the Board of Trade. That was not the case. The Committee had approved of the Bill, and if they had considered themselves incompetent they would not have approved of the Bill. The Committee were aware that an enormous amount of money had been spent in the successful endeavour by twenty-six ports to pass twenty-six Bills embodying the same principle. The hon. Member opposite had said that the engine space should equitably be deducted from the cargo tonnage in order to arrive at the rateable tonnage. But the large engine space in the fast passenger steamers was earning space. Without that space they could not get their earnings from the passengers. Everybody who had considered this matter knew that this Bill was the outcome of a constant struggle between the naval architects and the owners of docks. These naval architects were extremely able men; they studied the regulations of the Board of Trade, so as to adopt one scheme of design after another, without at all diminishing the earning capacity of the ship. Mr. Japp, the managing owner of the Shamrock Line, gave the Committee the benefit of his very great knowledge.
This Bill was now before Parliament for the fourth time. It had passed through Committees of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and had been in the hands of the Board of Trade 138 since 1902, and although it had passed through all this ordeal it was only now. in the Committee upstairs, that the Board of Trade had a word of objection to say to it. The Committee had to consider questions of equity between two classes of traders in Liverpool, and he must say that he never sat with a more painstaking Committee. The Committee inquired into the equity of the proposal made by the Mersey Harbour Board, and their decision was that as between the two classes of steamers the existing law unduly favoured the passenger steamers. The Mersey Dock Board asked for power to charge more to the passenger steamers than at present and they had given them that power. The Board of Trade had allowed twenty-six Bills embodying the same principle to pass into law without remonstrance, and it was only at the eleventh hour that, by the mouth of a technical expert, they were told that the principle of the Bill tended to induce shipowners to reduce the crew space and would be prejudicial to the health and well-being of the crew. But great authorities like Professor Biles, of Glasgow University, did not agree with the view of the Board of Trade that, if the Bill passed, shipowners would be induced to diminish the crew space in their vessels. If the Committee considered there was any danger to the crews, the Bill would not have been passed. But it was another matter as between ship and ship. The Board of Trade had full power to deal with the protection of the crews. The Board of Trade lead done their duty in the past, and he was sure they would do their duty in the future. Never had any Committee of the House been more emphatic in dealing out fair treatment to all the interests concerned.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY To THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. BONAR LAW,) Glasgow, Blackfriars
said that to ask the House, as he felt bound to do, not to allow the Bill to go further was to incur a very grave responsibility. They fully realised that it was a responsibility, and he could assure the House that they had only undertaken it after the most careful consideration, and because they believed that there was really no other course open, and that it was the duty of the Department. If this Was a question which concerned Liverpool alone, no matter how much they might diner on the principles involved in this Bill, they would certainly not ask the House to reject the decision of the Committee. but this did not concern Liverpool alone. Liverpool was a microcosm of the shipping world, and it had been admitted that whatever was done in Liverpool today would be done in the whole of the world to-morrow. This was not an ordinary private Bill. This Bill upset the whole tonnage system of the United Kingdom. The Board of Trade had always aimed at inducing other Goverments to adopt our system of tonnage rating, and this year they had succeeded in inducing the French Government to adopt the same system of rating which applied in the United Kingdom. It seemed to them that it would be almost ridiculous for them to have succeeded in that, and then for French vessels to find when they came to the United Kingdom that they were subject to a charge on a totally different basis. Apart from the fact that in their opinion this was a subject too large to be dealt with in any Private Bill Committee, however competent, they thought this Bill was introducing a bad principle, and was contrary to what had been the 140 distinct aim of the Board of Trade in shipping legislation for a very great number of years. If this Bill became the general system of this country it would be maintained in many cases to be the direct interest of the shipowner to give the crew the smallest space. There was a large class of ships where the interest was to reduce the space for crew and engines. He did not refer to passenger steamers, but to coasting steamers up to 1,000 tons. It was owing to the ingenuity of the ship-builders that this had arisen, and he was satisfied that if the Bill became law that ingenuity would be again exercised for the purpose he had mentioned. The question was not whether the Board of Trade was wrong in the past, but whether it was right now.
The proposal which on behalf of the Board he had to make was one that ought to commend itself to the House. It was that a competent Committee would be appointed to consider the anomalies which were admitted to exist. That Committee would consider in what way the system of allowances and deductions by which the tonnage was arrived at should be altered, if it should be altered at all, and if, as they expected, that Committee recommended alterations which seemed to he reasonable, the President of the Board of Trade would do everything he could to bring in legislation to carry those views into effect. He could promise the House that the Committee, which would be a Departmental Committee, would be representative. It would not be an official Committee; the official element would be in a minority, and it would contain experienced men—shipowners, shipbuilders, and dock managers. That was a 141 proposal which ought to commend itself even to the Dock Board, and he hoped they would accept it. He believed they would accept it were it not that it had become a question of sentiment. It was obvious that Liverpool was divided against itself. It was a straggle between the Cunard Company and the Dock Board, but sentiment ought not to influence the view of the Committee. It was said that the Board of Trade was influenced by partiality to the Cunard Company because the Government had lent them money; that the security of the loan would not be so good, if the Cunard Company had to pay more for dock dues. It was not usual to give Government Departments credit for looking so closely after the pence as this would indicate. He could assure the House
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H.||Holland, Sir William Henry||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hoult, Joseph||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Kitson, Sir James||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Leng, Sir John||Spear, John Ward|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.)||Stanley, Hn. Arthur(Ormskirk)|
|Brigg, John||Macdona, John Cumming||Stanley, Rt. Hn. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Milvain, Thomas||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Caldwell, James||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Pilkington, Colonel Richard||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Rankin, Sir James||Valentia, Viscount|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Reid, James (Greenock)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Renwick, George|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. William Lawrence and Mr. Houston.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Rose, Charles Day.|
|Gardner, Ernest.||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos.Myles|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Bain, Colonel James Robert||Churchill, Winston Spencer|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Balfour, Rt. HnGeraldW.(Leeds||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bingham, Lord||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Allen, Charles P.||Black, Alexander William||Craig, CharlesCurtis(Antrim,S.)|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Boland, John||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Broadhurst, Henry||Cremer, William Randal|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Burke, E. Haviland||Crooks, William|
|Arnold-Forster,Rt Hn Hugh O.||Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Cullinan,,J.|
|Asher, Alexander||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Davenport, William Bromley|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cavendish, V.C.W.(Derbyshire)||Delany, William|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Devlin, C. Ramsay (Galway).|
§ that, so far as the Department was concerned, the question of the Cunard Company had had no influence whatever upon their minds. At the moment he had no reason to know that the proposal he had made would be more or less acceptable to the Cunard Company than it would be to the Dock Board; but it was a fair and reasonable proposal, and the wily one open to them in the circumstances.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he agreed that the question was of such obvious importance that it ought to he investigated as a whole.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:— Ayes, 52; Noes, 154. (Division List No. 238.)
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Leamy, Edmund,||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Price, Robert John|
|Dobbie, Joseph||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Pryce-Jones Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lough, Thomas||Randles, John S.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Reddy, M.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Lueas, Reginald J.(Portsmouth||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Fergusson,RtHn.SirJ.(Mane'r||Mac Veagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Field, William||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|FitzGerald, SirRobert Penroso||M'Kean, John||Runciman, Walter|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Kenna, Reginald||Russell, T. W.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Forster, Henry William||Majendie, James A. H.||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Foster,Philip S.(Warwick,S.W.||Maxwell, RtHn.SirH. E.(Wigt'n||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Gordon,Hn.J. E.(Elgin &Nairn)||Maxwell, W.J.H(Dumfriesshire||Shackleton, David James|
|Grant, Corrie||Mitchell, Edw.(Fermanagh, N.)||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Mooney, John J||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Gretton, John||Moore, William||Slack, John Bamford|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Morpeth, Viscount||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th)||Moss, Samuel||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Harris, Dr. Fredk. R.(Dulwich)||Murphy, John||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Nicholson, William Graham||Sullivan, Donal|
|Helder, Augustus||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Talbot,Rt.Hn.J.G.(Oxf'dUniv.|
|Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T.||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Higham, John Sharpe||O'Brien,Kendal(Tipperary Mid||Thomas,David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Hope, J.F. (Sheffield, Brightside||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Tully, Jasper|
|Hornby, Sir William Henry||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Welby, Lt.-Cl. A.C.E.(Taunton|
|Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham)||O'Dowd, John||Wilson, Henry J.(York, W.R.)|
|Jameson, Major J. Eustace||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon,N||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Jones,David Brynmor(Swansea||O'Malley, William||Wylie, Alexander.|
|Jones, William(Carnarvonshire||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Joyce, Michael||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Young, Samuel|
|Kennedy,Vincent P.(Cavan,W.||O'Shee, James John|
|Keswick, William||Parrott, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Robson and Colonel Denny.|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to. Consideration, as amended, put off for three months.