§ MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)
said the principle on which the Resolution which he proposed to move was based was that the lighting of the coast was not the duty of any particular trade but a national duty. The principle upon which the present system was based was that it was the duty of the shipping trade alone to light the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland for the benefit of all concerned; that they and they alone should light the coasts. He reminded the House, however, that those who benefited were not merely the owners of the vessels that came to trade with this country but also the owners of the cargoes, the masters, and the crews who navigated the vessels and, above all, His Majesty's Navy. All these various interests benefited by the lighting of the coasts, and, therefore, it was manifestly unfair that the whole cost of lighting the same should be thrown on the shipping trade. If the shipping trade of this country ceased to exist it would still be incumbent on us to light our coasts in order that the safety of those who approached our shores might not be imperilled by the dangers of our coast. The lighting of our coasts was, in fact, a national obligation; a duty which we owed as one civilised nation to other civilised nations, and it devolved upon us to perform that obligation under all circumstances.
This question had been investigated by several Select Committees and those Committees had unanimously pronounced in favour of transferring 1033 the cost of lighting our coasts from the shipping trade to the Exchequer. In 1822 and 1834 Select Committees reported in favour of the principle, whilst in 1845 a Select Committee declared it was essentially a national duty, and they recommended that all expense for the maintenance of lighthouses, floating lights, buoys, and beacons should be henceforth defrayed out of public revenue. In 1858, when this matter was again before the House, in the course of the debate, before a Committee was appointed, Lord Palmerston said the lighting of our coasts was undoubtedly a duty which belonged to the State rather than the individual, and finally a Committee in 1860 declared upon this point that the lighting of our coasts was a high Imperial duty which we owed not only to ourselves but to strangers who came to our shores. The Select Committee in 1900 which sat to inquire into the question of steamship subsidies also recommended that light dues should be abolished, and the Bill that was introduced last year by the hon. Member for Newcastle was read a second time in a House of 284 Members by a majority of twenty-six.
Whenever this question had been discussed in or out of Parliament the conclusions arrived at had been the same, namely, that this charge ought to be a national charge. That contention was not only supported by principle but also by the practice of all the great maritime nations with the exception of Great Britain. France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and the United States, all lighted their coasts at the expense of the State and controlled the lighting by a Department of State. Japan, which all must recognise as one of the most progressive of nations, adopted the same principle, whilst even Russia, which was not regarded as progressive in many ways, was more progressive in this respect than Great Britain, she having adopted the same principle. It might be said that although foreign countries did not specifically charge light dues they charged tonnage dues which corresponded with our light dues, but in his view they did nothing of the kind. They corresponded more to our port and harbour charges. 1034 They had to notice that the total charges incumbent upon ships trading in foreign ports were generally less than those charged in the United Kingdom, and he instanced the case of the steamer "Milwaukee," of the Elder, Dempster line, which in course of her trading touched at Hamburg, where the charges were £228 11s. 4d.; Rotterdam, £107 3s.; Antwerp, £198 2s. 3d.; Liverpool, £409 12s.; and London, £497 Os. 10d. This would show what an encouragement it was for vessels to go to the rival ports of the Continent which had got the benefit of these decreased charges.
The lighting of the coasts was in the hands of four authorities, the Trinity House, the Northern Lights Commissioners, the Irish Lights Commissioners, and the Board of Trade. Trinity House was managed by thirteen Elder Brethren, no doubt of great experience in nautical affairs, but whose experience could not be of a modern character when the House recollected that seven members were over sixty-five years of age, two being seventy, two being eighty, and one being over ninety. The Commissioners of Northern Lights were mostly legal gentlemen, who in their vocation could, no doubt, deliver luminous decisions, but whose luminosity was not of that kind which was necessary to light the coast. What they wanted was that the whole administration of the lighthouses should be transferred to the Board of Trade. The charge he had to bring against the existing authorities was that they were wasteful and inefficient. In 1900 an Advisory Committee of shipowners and merchants was appointed by the President of the Board of Trade, and they had come to the conclusion not only that the expenditure was excessive and the service conducted in an inefficient way, but that the entire system was objectionable, and ought to be reformed. During the past year the Advisory Committee had prevented a proposed expenditure of £30,200 by the Commissioners of Irish Lights who thought they should have a new vessel in place of the "Princess Alexandra," which they alleged was worn out, but which it was proved could be repaired at a cost of about £800. There was a complaint also as to the delay of nearly 1035 a year in the publication of the accounts which, moreover, gave altogether insufficient detail. Items of £40,000 and £50,000 were given without any details. Then there was the increased expenditure from year to year on new works, the average of the last nine years having been £91,892. The maintenance of lighthouses had also gone up by leaps and bounds, and it was impossible to say why. Whereas the average cost of maintenance per lightship had been under the three general authorities £1,252, the average cost in the case of local lightships was £681 17s. 8d. Whilst a French lightship averaged 8s. 4d. per cubic foot for construction, the English averaged £1 7s. 9d., although the French light service was admittedly one of the best in the world. And there was no reason in the world why we in this matter should not take a leaf out of their book. In point of fact Trinity House had recently ordered a French lightship in order to test it. In 1902 the British total expenditure, exceeded the French, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian combined.
As to the efficiency of the service he did not wish to make indiscriminate charges, but much that he had said pointed to the inefficiency of the service in some respects, at any rate, and he must refer to the gross inefficiency of the Irish lights. The Irish lights were most inaccurate, they did not agree with the chart, and consequently vessels were exposed to the greatest danger. Representations had been made on this subject, but the replies which had been received from the Irish Lights Commissioners were not at all satisfactory. This was a most important matter, involving the safety of life and property, and the question ought to be most seriously taken in hand. He did not think tinkering with the question would be of any use, and the whole system would have to be reformed, root and branch. Shipowners ought not to bear these charges at all, and they were now being called upon to bear a good deal more than would be the case if the lights were more economically administered. He understood that his hon. friend the Member for Sheffield intended to object to this Motion on the ground that it was not 1036 right to carry out this reform at the expense of the National Exchequer. If a certain section of the community had for a long time been penalised, was it wrong that they should be relieved from that injustice? Was his hon. friend prepared to defend a system which was obsolete and antiquated? He was not asking the House forthwith, to place these charges upon the Public Exchequer, because there would have to be legislation, and it was a matter which would have to be undertaken by the Government; but they did ask the House to accept the principle, leaving it to the Government to apply this principle when they had a favourable opportunity of doing so. When that opportunity arose, the Government would find very considerable help from a large body of Members of that House. They were all proud of their maritime supremacy, but if something was not done in the direction he had suggested the time might come when that supremacy would be gone. While they were unable to decide what to do in the Port of London, Antwerp had adopted a great improvement scheme, which would quadruple their dock accommodation and give two new channels to the river. That had been done largely at the expense of the State, with some assistance from the municipality. He trusted that the House would not refuse to relieve the shipping. trade of these restrictions which prevented them from having a fair chance in competition with their commercial rivals abroad. The House had already pronounced in favour of the Second Reading of a Bill carrying out this object, and he trusted that hon. Members would now decide that the time had come to put an end to this long-standing injustice by adopting this Motion.
§ SIR WILLIAM HOLLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham),
in seconding the Motion, said he had had exceptional opportunities of judging the feeling of the chambers of commerce in this country in regard to this question, and he was able to assure the House that times out of number the Associated Chambers of Commerce of the United Kingdom had passed resolutions urging the Government to deal with this question, and they had passed such resolutions unanimously. 1037 Shipowners were determined to keep pegging away at this question until they got this reform conceded. All they wanted was fair play, and they claimed that the light dues were unequal in their operation and unjust in principle. Five Select Committees and one Royal Commission had reported in favour of this Resolution. In consequence of these light dues a very great injustice was inflicted upon British shipowners by the United States of America, where the authorities had retaliated by placing dues upon British shipping, and this country was getting by far the worst of the bargain. American ships contributed to our light dues about £4,000 or £5,000 annually, but British shipowners had to pay to the United States for light dues no less than £50,000 or £60,000 per annum. They had to pay that large sum solely because this country charged light dues upon American ships making use of our ports. This was an affair which interested not only shipowners, but also the public at large. It was a subject which very closely affected the safety of our ships, and therefore it was a most vital question. The mover of this Resolution had urged that the administration of the light dues should be transferred to the Board of Trade. He thought this was an opportune moment for carrying out a reform of that kind, because they were very likely to have shortly a Minister of Commerce, and the duties of the Board of Trade would have to be reorganised.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Lighting of the Coasts of the United Kingdom is a national duty, for the efficient performance of which full departmental responsibility should be assumed by the State and the cost defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament, instead of, as now, by charges on merchant shipping."—(Mr. Charles McArthur.)
§ MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
said he had put his Amendment down entirely upon his own responsibility without the instigation or the knowledge of any official person. The Motion before the House raised interesting points about the incidence of this 1038 charge with which the debate was concerned. It had been assumed that the whole of this charge for light dues fell upon the shipowner. It might be contended that this charge fell upon the shipper in diminution of his profits, or that it fell upon the consumer because he would have to pay more for the goods on account of the extra freights. If it fell upon the shipper then he did not think they needed to discuss the matter, because the burden would not in that case fall upon anyone in this country. If it fell upon the consumer he should be prepared to contend that it was better that the charge should fall upon the consumer of those particular goods than upon the taxpayer at large. It had, however, been admitted both by the mover and the seconder that this charge fell upon the shipping industry, that was upon the shipowners. He would ask why was Parliament, out of Imperial taxation, to be called upon to relieve shipowners of this special burden? This charge on the shipowners was estimated, last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at about Is. 6d. per £100 worth of goods carried, but if the whole volume of trade out and home was taken it worked out at 1s. 3d. Surely that was not a very serious burden. The railway industry, both in regard to local rates and the requirements of the Board of Trade, was subjected to far heavier charges than anything which fell on the shipping industry, and the same might be said of many other industries. In his opinion the burden placed upon the coalowner was infinitely heavier than in this case. He agreed that if the Workmen's Compensation Act was extended to the shipping trade that would impose upon shipping a new burden, and the case would be somewhat different.
He was surprised to see the hon. Member for Rotherham supporting this Motion, because he was an ardent advocate of the Rating of Machinery Bill, and he wished to see machinery exempt from rating. He had great sympathy for that proposal, but he did not see how machinery could be exempted from rating without throwing a heavy burden upon other classes such as small householders, and therefore he was opposed to it. Already the heavy non-textile industries were 1039 subjected to other heavy burdens in the shape of local rates whilst shipowners were free from suck burdens. Therefore if any relief was to be given it should not be given to the shipowners, but to the heavy non-textile industries. He could not see why the cost of lighting our coasts should be placed upon the Public Exchequer. Would it not be equally as reasonable to place the entire cost of signalling on the railways upon the National Exchequer? Reference had been made to what was done in other countries, but foreign nations did practically what we did in some way or another. The law of reciprocity in this matter in the United States had only been found capable of extension to two countries, namely, Denmark and Holland. All other countries were not admitted to the benefits of the United States reciprocity law because in some form or other, whether in the shape of tonnage or harbour dues, they practically levied the same charges as were imposed in this country in the form of light dues. Therefore, in this matter, the Government of the United States held the view that other countries did not treat them any better than this country.
The demand made by this Motion was that a charge of something like £500,000 a year should be placed upon the shoulders of the public, and he submitted that in the present state of their national finances this was a demand which ought not to be granted. He submitted emphatically that the time had not arrived when anything ought to be done in this matter. The recommendations of the Local Taxation Commission were far more important than this question, because they would confer a benefit upon the ratepayers at large. Taxation at the present moment was high, and it would be very difficult for any Chancellor of the Exchequer to defend the imposition of another £500,000 upon the taxation of this country in view of the urgent requirements of other industries. How could the Chancellor of the Exchequer possibly justify his position before the general body of taxpayers if he acceded to this Motion. He had great admiration for the courage of the right hon. Gentleman, but he did not think he would have the Audacity to grant this demand in face 1040 of the great need for relief from taxation in other more worthy directions. A great portion of these light dues were not paid by the home shipper at all but by the foreigner, to the extent of about 30 per cent. The debate illustrated the inconsistency of human nature, and especially Parliamentary human nature. Much had recently been heard of the necessity for economy, but one looked round in vain for the advocates of economy to oppose this Motion. If the shipping industry asked for a renewal of the Navigation Act he would be inclined to support them, but on the present occasion that support must be withheld. On purely theoretical grounds something might be said for the Motion, but in view of the present state of the national finances it would require a considerable amount of audacity to defend such a, proposal before the country. Possibly some day, when the Exchequer was overflowing, when no class complained of overtaxation, and when the navies of all possible enemies were at the bottom of the sea, a proposal of this kind might be entertained, but in the meantime, as the representative of an inland town, he must give it his most strenuous opposition. He begged to move the Motion standing in his name.
To leave out all words after the word 'That' and insert the words 'it is inexpedient, in the present, condition, of the national finances, to place any substantial burden upon the Exchequer for the relief of a particular section of the community.'
§ There being no response, the Amendment dropped.
§ MR. HOUSTON (Liverpool, West Toxteth)
pointed out that lighthouses were first introduced by religious communities, and then kept up by philanthropic landowners along the coast; they afterwards became a source of profit, and during various reigns, especially that of Charles II., were granted to different persons as rewards for meritorious services. They 1041 had been a source of profit ever since that time. It was not until 1850 that the Board of Trade were given the control and superintendence of matters relating to the mercantile marine, including the lighthouse service. Practically no other civilised country imposed such a tax as this upon shipowners; it was and ought to be a national charge. There was no more reason why one section of the community should be charged with the lighting of the coasts than there was why one section should be charged with the lighting of the streets. The streets, late at night, were used principally by criminals, policemen, doctors, and legislators. What would be said if these classes only had to bear the cost of lighting the streets? The reason why this burden was allowed to remain on shipping was because that trade which, with its allied industries, was the greatest in the country was not represented on the Treasury Bench. If it had been a question affecting agriculture, Parliament would have turned a much more willing ear to the appeals made, and probably doles would have been given. Why? Because a great number of Cabinet Ministers were much more interested in land than in shipping. When the dying patriarch summoned his sons to his bedside, he said, "Issachar is a strong ass, couching between the two burdens." He thought Jacob must have had in his mind the modern prototype of Issachar—the British shipowner, who was indeed an ass couching between grandmotherly legislation and unjust taxation on the one hand, and foreign subsidised competition on the other. But even that most patient domestic animal would turn, and possibly, if the shipowners emulated the example of the loyal Unionists of Ulster, the hearing of the Government might improve and the appeal be more favourably considered. He would not say a word against the Board of Trade; he only wished they would give more heed to this appeal.
The Navy did not contribute anything to the lighting of the coasts, yet there was every reason why it should. The Navy during manœuvres was a standing menace and source of danger to the mercantile marine, as was seen in the recent disaster in 1042 the Channel. They went steaming about without lights, and yet they paid nothing for the lighting of the coasts. The mercantile marine was not only a national but an Imperial asset. It was the link which bound our Colonies to us, and I anything done to weaken it was a serious mistake. We were dependent for our food supplies on our shipping, and there was every reason why that industry should be encouraged, more particularly at the present time, when by foreign subsidised competition freights were not remunerative.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,] Worcestershire, E.)
said he did not propose to deal at length with the speech of the hon. Member who had just spoken. For the Government which he supported the hon. Member found terms only slightly less uncomplimentary than for the gentlemen who were his colleagues in the trade which he represented. The hon. Member described the Navy as a menace to the mercantile marine, and the mercantile marine as the greatest link between ourselves and our Colonies. He would just venture to suggest to the hon. Member that were it not for our Navy that link of Empire would be very quickly snapped.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
submitted that it was not wise for ship-owners and those who felt the importance of our sea commerce to minimise the necessity of a strong and powerful Navy.
§ MR. HOUSTON
said no one had more admiration for the Navy than himself; he had said nothing derogatory. What he said was that the Navy manœuvring in the dark was a menace to the mercantile marine, and he failed to see how that remark could be construed as derogatory to the Navy.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he was glad to know that the hon. Member and he were at one as to the importance of the Navy.
1043 The mover of the Motion had stated that the lighting of our coasts was a national duty which we could not neglect. That was a principle with which no one would disagree. It was quite obvious that as a great civilised Power, with a comparatively vast seaboard, we were bound to see to the proper lighting of our coasts. It did not follow, however, that for that lighting no charge was to be made either upon foreign ships which sought our coast or upon our own mercantile marine. Even though it were decided at some future time to reorganise the different bodies which now controlled the lighting of the coasts it by no means followed that Parliament would be prepared to place the whole of the cost of the service on the Imperial. Exchequer. ["What about the Navy?"] To require a contribution from the Navy would only he another way of making the general taxpayers pay, and, in his opinion, the great service rendered by the Navy to the mercantile marine was a good reason why His Majesty's ships should be exempted from the payment of light dues. The Navy was essential to our national existence; it was doubly essential to the existence of our over-sea trade and the maintenance of our mercantile marine. It rendered enormous services to the mercantile marine in subsidiary ways, such as the charting of the seas, giving notice of danger, supplying information, warning, and advice, which, in his opinion, amply discharged any liability it might otherwise have in the matter of light dues.
It was argued that the practice of all nations was against ours in this matter; that the United States levied light dues on our shipping simply because we levied dues on American shipping, and that, inasmuch as many more British ships went into American ports than American ships came into British ports we, as a nation, were losers by the transaction, and that nothing but our insistence on these dues prevented the American Government from allowing our ships in free of all charges. That was an entire misapprehension. It was well known that considerable pressure was being brought to bear upon the authorities in America to alter their law adversely to the shipping interests in this country, and it was probable that in their determination to 1044 construct again a great mercantile marine the United States would have recourse to these dues and other measures, and that, whatever we might do, we should not be able to secure the remission of the dues. I But if the American Government were convinced that in other countries except England the lighting of the coasts was a national charge, how was it that those countries had not received the remission of dues in America which this country was to earn? Only two countries in the world—Holland and Denmark—had yet succeeded in convincing the United States Government that they gave the kind of reciprocity, the absolute freedom, which the United States demanded, and the only port of any size for ships sailing from, which entered the harbours of America without paying dues, was Rotterdam. Only two countries in the world—Holland and Denmark—obtained that remission, which showed that, if light dues were not charged in other countries, there was an equivalent of them under some other name. We might abolish these light dues to-morrow and still we should in no way have qualified for freedom in the American ports. The remission of dues accorded by the American Government was not merely accorded to the ships of the country where no dues prevailed, but it was accorded to all ships sailing from those ports. By remitting these dues they would be remitting a charge one-third of which was paid by foreign vessels. Therefore, if they secured this reciprocal treatment in America a great portion of the advantage would go, not to British ships alone, but to foreign ships sailing from British ports.
Reference had been made to the necessity for developing the Port of London, and a comparison had been drawn between what was now being done at Antwerp and what was being done in the Port of London, and a very gloomy future had been predicted for London unless they awoke to their responsibilities and to the keener competition to which they would be subjected in the future. He would remind the hon. Member for Liverpool that the Government had not been unmindful of the interests of the Port of London, because they had proposed legislation on the subject, although it had not 1045 met with that amount of good will and assistance which was necessary in order to enable it to pass into law. This reference to the Port of Antwerp, if the hon. Member would excuse him for saying so, was really a matter of prejudice like many other questions which had been mentioned in the debate, and it really had no bearing upon the proposition before them. These matters appeared to him to have been introduced to colour the picture, and affect their minds by striking their imaginations, and to put the House generally into a mood to do something without regard to the National Exchequer.
It was said that the management of the lighthouse authorities was wasteful and extravagant. He admitted that if we were establishing a lighthouse authority at this moment it was unlikely, that it would be constituted exactly as Trinity House was constituted at present, but the lighthouse authorities of the: country had discharged their responsible; functions with credit to themselves and to the country. If there was unnecessary delay—and the Board of Trade did not hold that view—he did not believe it would be possible to accelerate the rendering of the accounts by any change in the incidence of the charge or of the authorities who administered the fund. In regard to the complaint that the lighthouse authorities were unnecessarily extravagant in relation to new works, a mere comparison of cost as between one country and another was a very imperfect test of extravagance, our own coast being a very difficult coast to light as compared with that, for example, of France. Local lights being in a more sheltered position than those under the national authorities, it was obvious that the capital cost and the cost of maintenance must be greater in the case of the latter. It would be of use to the Board of Trade if his hon. friend placed such information as he possessed at their disposal to enable them to investigate. He did not underrate the advantage of the Advisory Committee, but the Advisory Committee were not always right. They sometimes declared that certain lights were not necessary when those with more immediate knowledge declared them to be absolutely necessary. He could not help thinking 1046 that the origin of the criticisms directed against the lighthouse authorities was not so much a general dislike of those authorities as the dislike of the shipping community to be called upon to pay lighthouse dues; and that if the dues were transferred to the Exchequer the desire would be not to restrict the lights, but to multiply them at every point around the coast. His opinion, after hearing the case presented to him against the present lighthouse authorities, was that whatever they might say as to the anomalies of their constitution, it could not be contended that they had done their work otherwise than well. With the experience he had had of Government administration and of the kind of pressure that was brought by local and sectional interests upon Government Departments for increased expenditure, and upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer for grants from the public purse, he could not believe for one moment that if this charge were transferred to public expenditure there would be any economy secured; on the contrary, he believed that there would be a great increase in the cost.
He did not agree with hon. Members who had spoken that this was an unfair burden to impose upon the shipping industry. He did not believe that a small House like the one he was addressing represented correctly the feeling of the country upon this question, nor did he believe that the House in its corporate capacity would as lightly vote this increased charge upon the taxpayer as those hon. Members who had assembled to support the Motion that evening. During the greater portion of the time since he had been Chancellor of the Exchequer he had been lectured first from his own side, and then by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because the public expenditure was so high, and he had been called upon to cut it down. He had been told that he had no right to allow all these heavy financial responsibilities to be thrown upon the House, that it was his duty to reduce expenditure, and that if he would do that the House would support him. At any rate, speaking for the Government, he could not consent, in the present state of the national finances, 1047 to the transfer to the taxpayers of the country at large of this burden from the shipping industry, which, in spite of bad times now and again, was a prosperous and expanding industry, and if the Motion were pressed to a division he should vote against it.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
said that as an economist perhaps he would be allowed to say a few words upon this subject. They had been constantly told in the House and in the Press that the expenditure of the country was too high and that steps should be taken to reduce it. He should have thought that when a proposal was made to place a charge of £500,000 upon the taxpayers of the country they would have had a larger number of Members present to listen to the arguments and to ascertain if there were any just grounds for incurring such a heavy expenditure. At the present moment there was no one present in the House except Members who were directly interested in the shipping industry—[Cries of "No"], so that if the Motion were carried it would be carried by those who, if it were acted upon, would benefit by it. This was a protectionist Motion of the worst kind supported by Liverpool men and others who called themselves free-traders. If this proposal in regard to light dues were accepted, it would mean the placing on the taxpayers of the country a charge to promote the prosperity of a particular industry. He should like to know where they were going to stop if they did that. The shipping industry had, on the whole, during the last twenty years been extremely prosperous and he did not believe it wanted any extraneous aid. Even if it were admitted that industries in a bad state should be helped from national resources, he did not think that the shipping industry was one that came within that category. What was to prevent them from asking for payment of harbour dues next? He sincerely hoped that hon. Members would pause before they committed themselves to expenditure of this kind. No argument whatever had been brought forward in support of the proposal except that it would help the shipowning industry. 1048 The expenditure of the country was very great, and it would be inopportune to place on the National Exchequer a charge which the shipowning industry was well able to bear.
§ MR. RENWICK (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said that, so far from this being an exclusively shipowners' Motion, it had been unanimously supported for years by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, whose members were drawn from all parts of the country, and not from seaports alone. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had put the case very fairly before the House except in one particular. One important point which the right hon. Gentleman did not state was that 50 per cent, of the ships which benefited by our lights never entered British ports, and never paid a penny towards the upkeep of the lights. It was the duty of this country to light its own coasts, and if it did not do so there would be an outcry throughout the whole civilised world. He maintained that it was the duty of every civilised State to light its own coasts, and that was all the shipowners asked the Government to do in regard to our coasts. He did not dispute the statement of the hon. Member for Peckham that the shipping industry had been prosperous during the past twenty years, but he would remind the House that shipowners had come there on former occasions and asked that the State should carry out the duty it ought to perform. They said farther that if they must pay these dues they were entitled to representation on the body that carried out the work. Trinity House was an ancient corporation and out of date. Shipowners who paid the light dues ought to have a voice in the expenditure of the money. They had what was called a consultative representation on the board, but they had no vote. If they were entitled to be consulted, they ought to have a voice as to how the expenditure was to be carried out. A Committee which was appointed to inquire into the subject reported that not more than £60,000 a year should be spent on lighting the coasts—but, notwithstanding that, upwards of £100,000 was paid at present for that purpose.
§ SIR ROBERT ROPNER (Stockton)
Said that when this question was last discussed in the House the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the Royal Navy rendered such service to shipowners that it should not be taxed for coast lighting. The right hon. Gentleman argued that trade had benefited by the Navy, but he seemed to confound trade with the ship-owning interest. They all admitted that general trade had benefited from the service rendered by the Navy; but they maintained that because general trade had benefited the whole nation should contribute the light dues, and that shipowners as a class should not be called upon to pay for these lights. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also stated that although foreign countries might not charge light dues in that shape to shipowners, they charged them indirectly as tonnage dues. The fact was that on the Continent, generally speaking, harbours and docks belonged to the different Governments, and possibly the tonnage dues covered the cost of lighting the coasts. But the tonnage dues did not amount to anything like what the shipowners of this country were called upon to pay for harbour dues alone. It was well known that the docks in this country belonged to private owners and that they had to be managed in such a way as to make a profit, and consequently higher charges were made than at places where the docks were owned by
§ the Governments. If the dues were unjust to British shipowners they were also unjust to foreign shipowners, because on the Continent shipowners were not called upon to pay for the lighting of the coasts, except in two or three small countries, such as Sweden and Norway. If we continued to call upon foreign shipowners to pay these dues, their Governments might penalise our ships in their countries. He instanced what our Government had done in regard to the load-line when a communication on the subject was made by the German Government, as showing what could be accomplished by the action of a foreign Government. When the Suez Canal shares were bought by our Government they cost £4,000,000, and now they were worth £33,000,000. It was part of the purchase agreement that the return on the capital should not exceed 25 per cent., but, in spite of that, 28 per cent was being paid. The steamers frequenting the Suez Canal were mostly British, and, therefore, a sum of probably over £500,000 was being exacted from the pockets of the British shipowners in that way. It was unfair to levy light dues on the shipowner alone when all classes benefited by the lighting of the coasts.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 66; Noes, 62 (Division List No. 199.)1051
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Evans, Sir Francis H (Maidst'ne||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Furness, Sir Christopher||Leigh, Sir Joseph|
|Black, Alexander William||Galloway, William Johnson||Lough, Thomas|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Hardie, J. K. (Merthyr Tydvil||MacIver, David (Liverpool)|
|Burt, Thomas||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Buxton, N E (York, NR, Whit by||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||M'Arthur, William (Cornwall|
|Caldwell, James||Houston, Robert Paterson||Murphy, John|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Hutchinson, Dr. Chas. Fredk.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Jones, D. B. (Swansea)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North||Lamont, Norman||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Cremer, William Randal||Langley, Batty||Pilkington, Colonel Richard|
|Delany, William||Lawrence, Sir J. (Monm'th)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Denny, Colonel||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool||Plummer, Sir Walter R.|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall||Rankin, Sir James|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Rea, Russell|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Sullivan, Donal||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Renwick, George||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Roe, Sir Thomas||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert||Tuff, Charles||Charles M'Arthur and Sir|
|Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H (Sheffeld||William Holland.|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col T. Myles||Wilson, Chas. H. (Hull, W.)|
|Shackleton, David James||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin&Nairn||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Allen, Charles P.||Cray, Ernest (West Ham)||Purvis, Robert|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Harwood, George||Ridley, S. Forde|
|Balfour, Rt, Hn G. W. (Leeds)||Higham, John Sharp||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas Thomson|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. Hicks||Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Bond, Edward||Jessel, Captain Herb. Morton||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.||Kennaway, Rt Hn. Sir J. H.||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn J A (Wore.||Keswick, William||Stanley, Rt. Hn. Lord (Lanes)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Maconochie, A. W.||Tomlinson, Sir W. Edw. M|
|Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers-||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Milvain, Thomas||Valentia, Viscount|
|Elibank, Master of||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants||Walrond, Rt. Hn Sir Wm. H.|
|Fellowes, Rt Hn Ailwyn Edw.||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow||Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Morrell, George Herbert||Whiteley, H (Ashton und Lyne|
|Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Percy, Earl||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Forster, Henry William||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Frederick Banbury and Mr.|
|Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W.||Pretyman, Ernest George||Skewes-Cox.|