§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. GUEST (Cardiff)
said the Bill had two objects; one was to apply to foreign ships the same provisions with regard to sailors as were applicable to our own ships, and the other was, from the national point of view, to do something to encourage British seamen. He did not think that anybody could deny that the application of the load-line to foreign ships was needed in the interests of the safety and welfare of the sea-faring population, and it could hardly be contended that those foreign ships which used our ports should be exempted from this provision which had redounded so very much to the credit of the gentlemen who first secured its application. The possession of a certain amount of knowledge in the English language was equally important in the same direction. He did not think hon. Members opposite would be able to charge his right hon. friend with any protective instincts or protective ideas in the Bill which he had 1090 introduced. Of course, it might be suggested that they had, in fact, a slightly protective effect, but that was not the object which his right hon. friend had in making those provisions. Seeing that they were justifiable and that he did not think any Member of the House was of opinion that they were undesirable, it would not be for them to accuse him of introducing protective legislation for British seamen. But there was a much more important object, from a national point of view, than the introduction of safety measures, and that was the encouragement of British seamen. Everybody who knew anything about shipping or who had the good fortune or the misfortune to represent a seafaring port, knew perfectly well that one of the greatest deterrents to the adoption of a seafaring career was the fact that, if a British seaman engaged under present conditions on an English ship, he was very apt to find himself in the position of being in a foreign country. Very often it happened that every other seaman on the ship was a foreigner, and there was small inducement to British seamen to serve. Another great grievance which British seamen had had to endure in the past was the scale of food to which they I had been subjected. Many people had assured him that one of the most important considerations, if they wished to have a British crew and if the British crew was to be satisfied and to be satisfactory, was that there should be a good cook and a good scale of provisions. Most of the best shipowners appreciated that fact, and steps had of late years been taken very much to improve the conditions of living on board British ships. That provision in the Bill, therefore, would have the effect largely of levelling up shipowners to the standard of the best shipowners in the country. The better pro vision for the repatriation of distressed seamen left abroad must also have a similar effect upon encouraging British seamen. That object, as he had said, was a national object. It was surely of the very greatest importance in these days, when we relied so much upon the Blue-water school, that there should be in this country at any given time a large available supply of seamen to whom we could look in time of war to 1091 fill up the gaps in our Navy. It would be a very disastrous thing if, owing to oversight or indifference, British seamanship were allowed to diminish, until, perhaps, British shipping had passed almost entirely into the hands of foreign seamen. This Bill, therefore, had his support on national grounds as well as on the grounds of safety. He knew there were Members in the House, and especially the hon. Gentleman the Member for Middlesbrough, who thought that the provisions of the Bill, with regard to foreign seamen, should be extended in part, if not in bulk, to the exclusion of lascars. He imagined that that hon. Member thought lascars were as much foreigners as Greeks, Norwegians, or Spaniards, but he would tell the House an experience which he had during the recent electoral contest. It went a long way to prove that, in the opinion of the public, lascars were British subjects and were so regarded. At one of those usual dockyard crowds which it was the lot of a candidate to address at election times, he was approached by an Englishman, who complained bitterly of the foreign competition which prevented him from earning a livelihood. The man was pale and hungry, and he would have made an impression upon anybody thus interviewed by him. Whilst he was urging his case and asking him (Mr. Guest), if returned to Parliament, to do something for him and others like him, a negro came up and proceeded to protest in voluble, but not very good English that he was suffering from similar competition. Thereupon he (Mr. Guest) said, "You are protesting against the competition of foreigners. Here is a foreigner, and he is protesting against similar competition." "Oh, no," said the crowd," he is a British subject; we do not object to him." In that protest his pinched and starving friend was one of the first to join. It was, therefore, absolutely clear to his mind that in our ports Englishmen did feel that British subjects stood upon a different basis to foreigners, and whose competition was entirely foreign competition. In view of that fact, he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would resist any attempt to exclude lascars or any other British subjects 1092 in the way he had excluded foreigners by the clauses of the Bill.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
May I correct the hon. Member? I do not object to the employment of lascars, and never have objected. All I say is that they should not be used for the purpose of driving Britishers out of British ships.
§ MR. GUEST
said he understood that the hon. Gentleman wished to limit their sphere of competition in some way or another. Here was a negro. He did not know where he came from, but he was recognised by a Party crowd to be a British subject, and he came there in distinct competition with the man who was complaining very bitterly and suffering so much from all forms of foreign competition. Although the man was extremely bitter and hostile about the foreign competition to which he was subjected, he did not in the least object to the competition of the negro, because he was a British subject. He did not believe that English seamen in the least objected to the competition of British seamen whether they come from England or were natives of self - governing or Crown Colonies. What they did object to was the competition of foreign seamen. He did not think his right hon. friend was concerned with the question of competition; he was concerned with the question of safety; and he did not doubt that the negro was quite capable of understanding words of command given in the English language. He believed this measure would meet with the approval of the shipping community in general, and that it would not inflict any unnecessary burden upon the shipping industry. He did not believe it would do more than in some cases level up the practice of the less public-spirited shipowners to the level of the more public-spirited shipowners. In his opinion it would not have a hampering effect upon trade, and it would provide a much-needed improvement in shipping Acts as applicable to seamen.
§ MR. GIBBS (Bristol, W.)
asked for the indulgence of the House, as a new 1093 Member, to say a word or two upon the question of alien pilots in British waters. He expressed his gratitude to the President of the Board of Trade for his sympathetic attitude towards this question in his speech last week. Up to the present time only eighty-five certificates had been granted to foreign pilots. That might not seem to be so very serious, but he maintained that, if something was not done, the certificates would increase, and the matter in time would become very serious indeed. The profession of a pilot was one of great responsibility and should be remunerated accordingly. If the number of certificates was increased by certificates being granted to foreign masters and mates, then, while the responsibility remained, the profitableness of the profession would be diminished. The Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which authorised piloting authorities to grant certificates to masters or mates of any ship of any nationality, caused a great injustice and was a great danger to the State. A pilot's living was gained by navigating ships through the intricate courses which had to be followed when approaching or leaving this Island Kingdom of ours. He would quote an instance. The approach to the City of Bristol, a Division of which he had the honour to represent, required considerable skill in navigation, and the native pilots there considered it a great hardship that the masters of foreign ships should be allowed to pilot their vessels up the river. In nearly all other maritime countries the necessary local knowledge was limited to a body of native pilots, and, in fact, he believed in some cases pilots' certificates were not granted even to native captains. Our system of compulsory pilotage was modified by a provision being made to grant certificates to masters and mates of ships which habitually traded through the particular port authorising them to pilot their own ships. He believed at first the local authorities considered that this regulation was supposed only to apply to Britishers, but the Board of Trade thought differently and held that no exclusion of foreigners was implied. In this was foreigners had obtained equal rights, and not only could they pilot their own ships in our waters, but, by so doing, they 1094 saved pilotage dues. The consequence was that the native pilot saw foreign hips pass by navigated by men who had not one-half the local knowledge he possessed, and he felt at the same time that he was being deprived of what he might fairly consider to be his rights. Apart from all this, the House should look at the inducement for foreign mercantile officers to get British pilotage certificates. The possession of such certificates increased their chance of promotion in the naval reserve force of their own country very considerably, and in that way it seemed to him we were training a body of men who would strengthen the intelligence department of foreign countries, and, without doubt, constitute a very grave danger in time of war.
§ MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said he had listened with very great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, who had expressed similar views to those put before the House by one or two hon. Members of the Labour Party on the Second Reading of the Bill. There was no town in his constituency on the coast, and he would not be justified in troubling the House with any observations were it not that he thought that no man was worth much who did not speak up for his friends, on whatever side of the House he sat. He should like to say a word or two on behalf of the lascars, and in reference to the petition which was read in the House. When the petition was read, some doubt was expressed as to whether it was written by a lascar. A question was actually asked on the subject. It was likely enough that it was not written by a lascar. He believed it was not written by one, but it expressed, in the most exact manner, the feelings of the lascars. He would explain how these things were done. In the East it was not the custom to do things for one's self which it was somebody else's business to do. In this country a man might shave himself without offence, but in the East if a man were to shave himself he would be regarded as interfering with the rights of the barbers. In the same way it was not the custom to write petitions: it was a profession to write petitions. A petition writer would be sitting in the 1095 street and no sooner did he see a lascar coming round than he proceeded to get the petition written, and it was almost done before the lascar told him what he wanted. The petition might commence, "There is in the British Parliament a good kind gentleman called Havelock Wilson, who is the father and mother of sailors and lascars." That would be the conventional form, but it did not exactly meet the case. The fact was that the lascar wanted to complain of this hon. Member because he proposed to give him more cubic space than he needed. He did not want it. It was in his opinion a noxious draught. The fact was that the lascar did not want the benevolence of this Gentleman, who was described as the father and mother of the British sailor. That was a correct description of the case, and for that reason he was extremely pleased to hear what the right hon. Member for Carnarvon said of the lascars, when he testified to their competence as sailors. There might be difficulty in dealing with them in view of the competition of Eastern and Western labour, but he wished to testify to the fact that these men were deserving of all consideration. He did mean to say that to press such provisions in regard to the lascars was in point of fact utterly unreasonable. It was a well-known fact that if a native of India owned a palace, he would sleep in a corner. He disliked space and absolutely enjoyed crowding. These facts might not be acceptable in the House, and they might not be understood. But they were precisely what the lascars thought. There were a great many people on the continent of Europe who were absolutely unwilling to have an open window during many months in the year. The regulations which applied to British seamen were wholly unsuitable to lascars, and if the question arose it should be dealt with on a proper footing without applying regulations suitable for Europeans to people of a different colour who did not want them. It had been suggested in the course of the debate that the lascar's ignorance of English might give rise to danger. The fact was that the lascar, like all his race, was a born linguist. He himself had never seen a lascar who did not 1096 perfectly well understand the words of command, and he was convinced that no difficulty or danger would arise with these men on that account. No objection of that kind could really hold water. If the employment of the lascar competed with that of the British sailor he deeply deplored it. He had lived in India, and he would put the British sailor first, but at the same time he believed it was a fact that there was plenty of room and plenty of work for both. The lascar was a very honourable counterpart in the East of the British sailor in the West. He hoped the House would excuse him for making a few remarks on this branch of the subject with which he was really acquainted.
§ MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S.E.)
said that in the Bill as it stood there were some omissions which might be rectified by the Grand Committee. There was no mention made in it of any alteration in the space allowed to seamen. He was a member of a Select Committee two years ago which threw out a Bill of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and they made a special report at that time, stating that it was desirable that the Board of Trade should deal with the question of crew space. At present, under the Act of 1854, the space allotted to each seaman was only 72 cubic feet. That provision had been acknowledged by the President of the Board of Trade to be too small. He was well aware that that was exceeded by nearly all the vessels now trading, but the fact was used in debate and was also made use of outside the House by the Seamen's and Firemen's Association, and by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough. It was not so much a question of crew space for seamen as a question of the measurement of ships. Mr. Gerald Balfour referred the matter to a Departmental Committee in February, 1905, and he-wished to ask whether that Committee had yet reported. It was most desirable that Members should have that report before them before the Bill was considered by the Grand Committee. This was a matter of great importance, not only to shipping interests, but especially to dock interests. It was 1097 only on Monday that the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board passed a Docks Bill through a Committee of the House of Lords entitling them to spend £4,500,000 on the extension of docks at Liverpool. That money was to be spent chiefly for the berthing of the new large Cunard steamers. Those steamers were of immense size a ad the accommodation they required was very great, but it was contended by the Mersey harbour authorities that under the measurements at present existing and under the system by which dues are levied at the docks on the net registered tonnage those great ships would probably pay only at the rate of 33 per cent. of their gross tonnage. A Committee which had inquired into that tonnage recommended that each ship should pay on not less than 50 per cent, of the gross tonnage. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade was not averse to that subject coming before the Grand Committee and to some Amendment being inserted in the Bill by which a more equitable arrangement should be made for the reckoning of the tonnage. Mr. Byles, Sir William White, and some of the best naval authorities held that the payment of dock charges should be made for services rendered and not on the earning power of the vessel. In the 1854 Act those rates were supposed to be paid on the earning capacity of the ship. As ships were now constructed that was very unfair to the dock authorities and the great majority of ships paid on 64 per cent. But some ships like the new Cunarders paid on between 30 and 40 per cent, although their real carrying capacity amounted to over 50 per cent. It was contended by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough that any alteration in the measurement of ships for dock dues, if charged on the gross tonnage and not on the net tonnage, would interfere with crew space, but that was not borne out by the expert evidence given before the Departmental Committee. The crew space at the present time was greatly in excess of that laid down by the Merchant Shipping Act. The President of the Board of Trade ought to bring in a new clause extending the amount of space allotted for seamen to at least double the present amount of 72 feet. He believed that no ship at Liverpool gave 1098 less than 141 feet. It ought not to be left to the caprice and convenience of shipowners, but should be laid down by Parliament. If the shipowner gave extra space to the crew it was at the expense of the dock authority, and, therefore, it was highly important that the exact amount should be stated.
§ MR. L. HASLAM (Monmouth Boroughs)
said that it would save the time of the House if he read the following Question which he recently addressed to the President of the Board of Trade and the Answer—'To ask the president of the Board of Trade whether he will consider the advisability of taking steps, by legislation or otherwise, so that merchant seamen shall have the right to claim that a portion of their wages, while they are away on voyage, shall be paid to persons dependent upon them for support, to banks, or trade unions, or similar institutions, as they may appoint.'
§ "MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
A seaman can already (under Section 141 (2) of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894) allot half of his wages to a near relative or to a savings bank. I will consider whether it is desirable to extend the provision of this section to trades unions, or similar institutions as the seaman may appoint."
The reason for his rising and putting this Question was that he represented a large seaport town, and he had received a petition, signed by 123 seamen, saying that they frequently were unable to get an allotment of their wages which, according to the right hon. Gentleman, the law allowed them to obtain. He had a letter from the chaplain of the Seamen's Institute of Newport, saying that he had been to consult the shipping officers in order to be able to make the matter quite plain. These were the facts. The Act said—A seaman may require that a stipulation be inserted in his agreement for allotment of his wages.The seaman went to a shipping office. He was told what wages were offered, and that he might have half a month's advanced, and if he wished to make an allotment he was allowed to do so. Many shipping offices, however, refused, and said he could not claim to have any allotment. If that were so it was a very serious grievance. The ship - masters knew that they could find other men 1099 and told the sailor he was not wanted, and some foreigner, or unmarried man, or thriftless fellow, was taken on instead. What was required was an additional clause granting the request for an allotment which any sailor might make. The chaplain went on to give a concrete case of a woman of twenty years of age, married to a Norwegian. He sailed in a ship, and before doing so got half a month's wages in advance or two pounds. He tried to get more but could not. Some weeks afterwards, the husband not having returned, the wife went to the shipping office and asked for an allotment, which was refused. A letter was written to the owners in Glasgow asking them to pay the wife part of her husband's wages. The reply was a refusal, and the wife had to go to the relieving officer of her parish. It was just possible that an ordinary seaman might be confused by the intricacies of legal phraseology; he might not be able to comprehend the meaning of an Act of Parliament. He had himself read the Act of Parliament and had had considerable difficulty in knowing whether a seaman could compel a shipowner to make an allotment of his wages. Everybody knew the great temptation which confronted a sailor when he came on shore with a large sum of money—wages for perhaps a voyage of one or two years. Every possible opportunity should be given to the sailor to have some portion of the money placed in a savings bank or other secured deposit so that he might not have a large amount of money paid him on his arrival at home. The law should be so amended that it would be an offence if a form was not offered to seamen to fill in, enabling him to make an allotment of his wages not exceeding one-half of the amount. That was to say, whenever a sailor asked for a berth it should be compulsory on the part of the shipowner to allow the sailor to do what he wished with regard to the security and disposal of his wages while at sea. If that were done benefit to our seamen would be very much ensured. He trusted that the President of the Board of Trade would bring in some Amendment of the Bill in Committee in that direction.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
said that as he was Chairman, or a member, or otherwise interested in the in- 1100 quiries of the several Committees whose recommendations were embodied in this Bill, he should like to say a few words about the measure. The hon. Member for Cardiff was very anxious lest we, as a nation, should make any suggestion of self-defence against unfair foreign competition in discussing the provisions of this Bill, and seemed to think we should not be justified in doing so. He entirely disagreed with the hon. Member. This Bill made very decidedly against unfair foreign competition, and he was exceedingly glad that the President of the Board of Trade was bringing it in. The right hon. Gentleman's object from that particular point of view was an excellent one. Personally, he did not see a very great deal of difference in protecting ourselves against cheap dumping by unseaworthy foreign ships and protecting ourselves against cheap dumping by a system of free imports. But, however that might be, he had every hope that as the President of the Board of Trade had undertaken to father this Bill through the House, they might yet see him a convert to defending our goods and our trade against unfair foreign competition. British trade ought to have equal opportunities, as far as possible, with foreign trade. That was the object of Tariff Reform. British ships ought to have equal opportunities with foreign ships. That was the object of the Bill under discussion; and he sincerely trusted that the direction of this policy would be followed a great deal further, not merely for our ships, but for our trade. One of the main objects of this Bill was to say that the Board of Trade regulations would be enforced against foreign ships equally with British ships. That was one of the recommendations of the Committee on Steamship Subsidies, and it was most desirable. Clause 1 of this Bill applied our load-line to foreign ships. It provided that where foreign ships were, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, unseaworthy owing to defective equipment, etc., we should be able to bring them to book. That was a very useful provision. There had been cases where it had been difficult to deal with foreign ships so as to put them on an equality with British ships. Take, for instance, the case of a foreign ship coming from 1101 Spain loaded with iron ore to this country. If the master of that ship chose, he could load, at the Spanish port, his ship down to a level that would submerge the British load-line by the amount of bunker coal and other necessaries which would be spent on the voyage, yet so that on arrival in this country the British load-line would not be submerged.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
A British ship might do the same now; but under this Bill neither a British nor a foreign ship would be able to do so in future.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL
said that what he was going on to say was that he thought the foreign ship had had an advantage, because it was not so much under the direct control of the Board of Trade as the British ship.
§ MR. EVELYN CECIL
said he hoped so, and he was not making this criticism to condemn the Bill, but only to show that a watch must be kept to prevent foreign ships from evading indispensable British regulations applied to competing British ships. He was very anxious that, as far as possible, any regulations as to load-line should strike equally at foreign and British ships. It was important that the House should be reminded that foreign ideas in regard to many matters were different from ours, and that foreigners were apt to think that we interfered unduly with their ships in making what they considered vexatious requirements. His point was that, so far as we could, we should keep to the basis of safety. He should like to know whether any effort had been made, was being made, or was likely to be made to obtain an international load-line. He thought such a course was very desirable. He knew it was not often very easy, because foreign countries were not always disposed to take action with us in regard to maritime affairs. But if an international agreement could be come to, it would be advantageous to all the seafaring nations of the world, and it would be a great triumph to this country or whatever country 1102 carried out such a scheme. He thought it might be done if we paid some attention to the views of foreign nations. There were signs at the present time that some foreign nations were disposed to think over the proposal with some favour. In Germany there had been an endeavour to establish a load-line. There was a syndicate in that country called the Seeberufsgenossenschaft, which was a kind of mixed trade union and marine insurance company, which had the power to make regulations somewhat similar to our Board of Trade regulations and which submitted them to the German Government for their approval. He thought that the existence of a body of that kind did show that foreign countries were awakening to the necessities of the case, and that their governments would be more ready than hitherto to negotiate for international regulations for a load-line. He understood from Clause 16 that the British regulations for passenger or emigrant ships were not to be applied to foreign passenger or emigrant ships merely calling at one British port. Those ships must be plying between British ports. That, he thought, was quite wise. It would be very undesirable on our part to impose on foreign ships, which were not plying between our ports, specific regulations of that character. He knew that we were subjected ourselves in foreign ports to exceedingly tiresome regulations, but he did not think we ought to imitate foreign nations in that respect unless it were for the purpose of getting them to comply with our regulations here. He had been told that if a British ship went into a port of Italy, and if while in that port it was painted with the British ship-owner's own paint and by his own men, the Italian Government taxed him for the painting of that ship as if it were done with Italian paint. He believed also that in Italian ports—certainly up till recently—the British shipowner was taxed for the electric light which he himself manufactured on his ship and for the use of his ship while in that port. These were merely vexatious regulations, and our regulations, he hoped, would always be child's play to such devices as those. He imagined that Clause 20, and indeed the whole of Parts 3 and 1103 4 of the Bill were contributions of the Board of Trade to the solution of the problem of the decline of British seamen. It was a very difficult problem and he wished he was of opinion that it was easier to get British seamen to man our ships than was the fact. He did not think it was easy to get British seamen, and he wished that the naval life could be made more attractive to them. Rather than go to training ships, boys were attracted by the higher wages or the more interesting employment which they could get on land. It was exceedingly difficult to get many British seamen on our ships, and he took it that Parts 3 and 4 of the Bill constituted the remedy of the Government for that evil, although he could not say it was an heroic remedy. He could not pretend to criticise it, because it was very difficult to say that anything could be done, but he thought one ought always to be on the look-out to see what was feasible, and if any better solution of the problem than this presented itself he hoped the Government would not be slow to avail themselves of it. Sub-section 4 of Clause 20 said that the provisions were not to apply to lascars. He would like to see incorporated into that subsection the words "or other Asiatic or African crews." He would show why. There were certain cases in which ships' articles were signed for a considerable time. Suppose a ship went to the Far East and the articles expired at the end of three years, and suppose at the end of three years the ship was still out in the Far East and likely to remain there, trading from port to port. Suppose the seamen who went out with that ship said they did not wish to continue in her and were paid off. There were no means of getting any other seamen except Chinese or natives of Africa. Therefore he thought it was necessary that such provision should be made in that section that it should apply just as much to those classes as to the natives of India. Of course that was an Amendment which should come before the Standing Committee on Trade, but he pointed it out now so that it could be fully considered in time. He saw by Clause 33 that the qualification for the rating of an able seaman was reduced. At first he 1104 was a little anxious lest they might be playing a little too lightly with qualifications of that description, but he was told now that the work which was required to make an able seaman was not so arduous or difficult or complicated as it was fifty years ago and that it was quite possible for a man to be thoroughly up to his work after two years at sea. He did not think, therefore, that that was an injudicious provision. He wanted to say a word or two on Clause 40, because it was in that clause that the President of the Board of Trade proposed to appoint committees of experts, for the purpose of advising him, when considering the making or alteration of any rules, regulations or scales. That was a very useful clause, and the only remark he wanted to pass was that he should like to see that policy of Advisory Committees extended as far as possible. He was sure it was a very wise plan to bring expert knowledge and opinion directly concerned in any particular trade more familiarly before the Board of Trade than had sometimes been done. The Board of Trade had perhaps been too much apt to rely on its own initiative, and he thought the appointment of an Advisory Committee of this nature would result in making the Board of Trade more efficient. He would like to see this policy very widely extended. On one of the Committees on which he served he recollected that a recommendation was made that it would be advisable to have a small permanent Advisory Committee to watch the development of foreign competition, and that that Committee should consist of officials of the Admiralty, the Board of Trade, the Post Office, and the Colonial Office, together with representatives of shipping and commerce. He did not think anything had ever been done with regard to appointing a Committee of that kind for permanently watching foreign competition in its various aspects, but if this policy could be extended in that way also, he should certainly welcome it. With regard to the few remarks that fell from the hon. Member for West Bristol in his maiden speech, referring to the question of alien pilotage, he was in absolute accord with the hon. Gentleman, and if the President of the 1105 Board of Trade found that legislation of that sort would not interfere with foreign treaties he would like that alteration to be made in the Committee.
§ MR. CHARLES WILSON (Hull, W.)
desired to support the hon. Member for West Bristol in asking the President of the Board of Trade to exclude foreigners from piloting British vessels. He had the honour of representing a shipping constituency, and in the recess a strong deputation waited upon him for the purpose of asking him to support any legislation that was brought in on this subject. He believed that British pilots were not allowed to pilot their ships in foreign waters, and although he was a free trader he believed it was for the benefit of the mercantile marine that piloting in our waters should be done by British sailors, or naturalised British subjects. He had nothing further to say on this subject, because he thought the President of the Board of Trade, having heard so much, would do something in that direction. He hoped he would, at any rate. Before sitting down he wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the great Bill he had brought in.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Croydon)
I think we can all join in the chorus of congratulation which has fallen upon this Bill. No one can find fault with the Bill for what it contains, and if any fault is to be found it must be with regard to what it omits. Many of the observations made upon the First Reading of this measure, and some of those which have been made to-day, have been very curious and significant. The Bill is accepted by everyone, so far as its main provisions are concerned, with regard to the application of the load-line to foriegn ships. With regard to the provision that is made for the better feeding of the men, and the application of a more liberal scale of provisions, I am very glad to know that the President of the Board of Trade is in accord with the majority of the shipowners. No doubt that is a very great step in advance; but a still greater step, in my opinion, is the provision made as to the education of ships' cooks. I wish that something more had been done towards the training of boys for the mercantile marine. I do 1106 not know whether others have seen, as I have, the arrangements made for the training of boys for the mercantile marine both in France and in Germany. They are totally distinct and different systems, but both result in the supply of first-class seamen. There, is one provision which is more doubtful than the others I have referred to, which I support, shall I say, with some misgiving. It is a provision which gives us something to think of. I mean the exclusion of foreigners from our mercantile marine. I am not a free importer, but I am a free trader, and I am glad to find, that my interpretation of free trade is consistent with a Bill of this character. Let us see what the Bill really does. We have in the first place this proposal with regard to the load-line of which we all approve, but is the motive for that provision solely the preservation of life? If it is, we can all approve of it. But we know that it is not. We know that that is one motive, and a very great motive, but we also know from one hon. Member who said that he represented the largest shipping port in this country, the Barry Docks, and who spoke with refreshing candour, the true raison d'etre of this arrangement as far as he is concerned. The hon. Member said the existing system gave foreign ships an advantage which enabled them to work at a profit, whereas our ships under our rules could only work at a loss. I have no quarrel with that proposition, but its acceptance seems to carry us very far. If that proposition is accepted it carries us much further than the simple doctrine of the application of the load-line to foreign ships. If it is true and just that we should give a fair opportunity to our workers, whether they work on land or sea, by depriving them of unfair competition, then I think we have travelled a long way on a very interesting road. The hon. Members for Sunderland and for Glamorganshire were very logical on this matter. The hon. Member for Sunderland made a very candid remark. The hon. Member said—If you are going to do this why do you not also insist that the wages paid on foreign ships should be the same as those paid on British ships?1107 That is a little beyond my proposition at present. That is a very strong step to take. But I note it as an indication of the motive for this provision. My right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, speaking on a kindred matter, suggested that it would be reasonable, when we are making arrangements for the guaranteeing of persons working in this country against accidents and extending that arrangement to accidents to persons employed at sea, that we should insist that.the provision should be extended to persons coming into our ports on foreign ships in competition with us as well as on our own ships. I see nothing in that which is inconsistent with the doctrine we have adopted with regard to the load-line. If that proposal is adopted solely on the ground of the preservation of life, I think we should have a good deal more evidence upon that point; and we should be shown conclusively that there is a great loss of life on ships coming into British ports and not conforming with our regulations. But I should like to know whether the motive, which the hon. Member for Glamorganshire says is his motive, enters into this question at all. Then, again, with regard to the question of language, we have derived a great amount of knowledge upon that subject from the hon. Member for Middlesbrough. He said we ought to exclude lascars who could not speak English, that he did not object to the employment of lascars in competition with English seamen on equal terms. But that is not my argument at all. We are now dealing with the question of whether we are to disqualify men because they cannot speak our language at all. Is that the reason why we were told the other day in this House that there were 40,000 seamen coming on to our ships between Antwerp and Cherbourg? Is that the gravamen of the charge that we have to meet? I think there is evidence with regard to the load-line, but I think there is no such body of evidence with regard to the language question. That there are cases I know, of my own knowledge and from other sources, but the cases are very few. There are five hundred causes of.accidents at sea; there is the cause of bad seamanship, of bad discipline and of insobriety. Some of these causes you 1108 eliminate by taking foreign seamen, Finns, and Russians, who do not talk our language, but who have the qualifications of seamenship and sobriety. You must set off one of these disqualifications against the others. I am certain this question of the language is not the real test. If you are risking the lives of men on our ships by allowing foreigners to come abroad who cannot talk our language why do you not exclude lascars—although I am told that the majority of lascars do talk our language, they certainly do not all do so. Are you going to exclude those too? Is it going to be contended that the P. & O. Company's ships are more unsafe than any other ships because they have lascar crews? The hon. Member for Middlesbrough says you are going to exclude these men, not because they do not talk our language, but because they are in competition with British seamen. I did not quite agree with the hon. Member for Cardiff when he said that British seamen were very patient with foreign seamen and with non-trade union seamen. If we were in the palace of truth I should say that the British seaman does not care to work with men who are foreigners and who do not belong to his union. I do not think that the hon. Member for Cardiff was in the least justified by the actual experiences of life in what he said. That being so, what is the ground on which we are going to exclude foreigners? Is it really because they cannot talk our language, or is it because there is this growing feeling which is in many cases very strong, and which will take us to great extremes, but which in the end will give us in the British mercantile marine some real proportion of British sailors? I believe there is a strong feeling growing up in this country that it is desirable that we should have a much larger number of British seamen than we have in the mercantile marine, and I do not believe that these provisions with regard to the cubic space and with regard to the food are going to give us this restoration of the British mercantile marine. I think we have had a good lead in this matter, and I hope it will be followed. I believe we are only at the beginning. I was reading the other day a passage written by a very keen observer in the East, 1109 who said when he saw work done in the East by men working for long hours, work done with great capacity and skill, he could not help feeling that when such work came into direct competition with work done by Western people, the Eastern labour would drive out British labour as the brown rat in this country drove out the black rat. The Lord Chancellor, speaking on the same subject the other day, spoke of the competition of non-regulated foreign labour. He said—If there was any attempt made to introduce it into this country all these sophistries would be swept away instantly, and in no part of Europe would cheap Chinese labour or cheap labour of any kind be allowed to compete with white labour.And what is true of Chinese labour is true of all cheap labour. When I have that statement on so high an authority as that of the Lord Chancellor, I think there is something in this Bill. I think it is reasonable that we should take some steps to protect our workers from unfair competition. I am not a purist in these matters, and I do not think that because this Bill takes a new departure we should be so fastidious as to object to it. It is, after all, but the muttering of the storm, an indication of the way men's minds are moving. The hon. Member for Central Sheffield and the hon. Member for Thanet have both put down instructions which I hope will commend themselves to the right hon. Gentleman opposite. They refer to the question of pilotage. There are two points of view from which that question may be regarded. The question is a national one. It may be looked at from the point of view of national safety. That is a very important point indeed, but if the representative of the Admiralty were in his place I would ask him whether the Admiralty supported this provision. I say that they do not. It is not a point they press. Yet we find that every section of this House has come to one opinion on this question. They say we are at present exposed to an unfair competition. Go where you will, up and down the Channel, and you will see pilot flags flying from foreign pilot vessels and you will see foreign captains taking charge of their ships when coming up the Medway and the Thames. I say it is un- 1110 just and unfair that foreign pilots and foreign ships masters should be allowed to come into our ports in this way and that we should receive no reciprocity at all in this matter. The State demands certain very high qualifications from our own pilots. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is therefore a very necessary one, and I hope he will not abandon it. The opposition to it will not be of a serious character, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that there is a sentiment of gratitude felt towards him by the people whom he has benefited. I do not oppose this Bill, and merely rise for the purpose of pointing out a few points of importance in regard to it. I wish to give my full support to the measure.
§ MR. CAIRNS (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
craved the indulgence of the House as a new Member. He congratulated the Government most heartily upon the improved conditions which were likely to eventuate from the standard food scale adopted in the Bill. He trusted that there would not only be plenty of food of good quality, but competent cooks to serve it. There were other provisions in the Bill which worked in the direction of improving the sailor's condition; but he believed the House would confess that, important as these provisions were, the extension of the Workmen's Compensation Act to seamen was the most beneficial thing that had been done for them during the last twenty years. He hoped that the President of the Board of Trade would not accept the invitation proffered to him to go into the question of tonnage measurement at the present time. That was a most intricate and far-reaching question. There were two sides to be heard on that matter, and it would require a very long and thorough investigation. It was intended to apply our load-line and our standard of life-saving appliances to foreign ships trading on the high seas which eventually arrived at British ports. That was not an entirely new departure. It had been argued that this measure was intended to avert unfair foreign competition. He had noticed that in this Parliament every measure brought before the House was most carefully scanned in certain quarters 1111 to see if there was the least grain of protection in it. In practice the effect of applying our load-line standard to foreign ships would be that such ships with deeper immersion, which previously were able to come to British ports, would gravitate to those ports where there were no such restrictions. The result would be that these foreign ships, carrying larger cargoes, would serve foreign nations and foreign commerce at a cheaper price than British ships would be able to serve British commerce. Those who thought that there would be protection would thus see that the contrary would be the case, because the cost of carriage by British ships would be more than that by the foreigners. There might be a little difficulty in the application of the Act, because a large number of vessels, when they left their loading port, did not know what their destination would be and called at specified ports for orders. Other difficulties might arise if foreign nations did not level up to our practices. He thought there was ground for hopefulness that foreign nations would gradually approximate to our standard, because recently by the Board of Trade regulations we had more nearly approximated to theirs. We had thus gone far on the way to prove that they had been right and we wrong. That fact, along with the legislation proposed by this Bill, made an ultimate international standard more easily attainable. The bringing of this Bill forward would probably lead to international conferences upon this subject, which might end in a state of things extremely satisfactory to all the nations concerned. He believed that the Government had been wise in fixing the date when the Bill should come into operation at so remote a time as 1908. That would give ample opportunity for conferences and it would enable the various interests to come together and so make a common standard more likely. He would like to call the attention of the President of the Board of.Trade to a defect in the present law, which whilst limiting the liability of vessels launched the same as in the care of registered vessels, yet made a condition that registration must take place within three months from launching. In cases of large passenger ships this time limit was 1112 found to be too short. The intention of the Act was that they should be covered. He hoped that a clause would be introduced into this Bill to rectify this defect. He noticed that the Board of Trade had power to prevent any vessel from proceeding to a foreign port in a defective condition. Sometimes foreigners purchased British ships in a British port, or perhaps a foreign ship lying in a British port, and they frequently wanted to take them abroad to effect the repairs. He felt that under this Bill such a liberty could not be allowed. He had known cases of vessels so proceeding to ports in Spain and Norway, where they had very cheap and expeditious methods of effecting such repairs. He thought this Bill was a great advance in the right direction, and perhaps he might be allowed, as a ship-owner himself and as a Member of this House, to compliment the right hon. Gentleman on having brought in a Bill, comprehensive so far as it went, and well calculated to attain the objects which it professed. There was no doubt that in some matters of detail it might be improved. Upon the point of foreign pilots might he say a word with regard to national safety? He had not heard much of foreign pilots until he entered this House, and although he had thirty years' experience of shipping he had had no contact with them. He understood that they traded principally between the Continent and this country, they were familiar with the whole route, and what was of great importance, they knew their own ships as no pilot could know them. From the point of view of national safety he wished to point out that the foreign captain did not leave the ship although the British pilot came on board; consequently the foreign captain would still get that intimate knowledge of British waters and ports which it was thought advisable that he should not have. If it was desired to prevent these pilot-captains from having any knowledge which impinged upon the question of national safety they must be left at the river mouth.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said he was afraid he should have to trouble the House at some considerable length in regard to this Bill. He very much regretted that hon. Members on both 1113 sides of the House failed to avail themselves of the opportunity of reading the various Blue-books that had been published with regard to the reports of different Committees which have inquired into the shipping question. [An HON. MEMBER: Life is too short.] At least hon. Members, before taking part in the debate on this question, should take the trouble to read up the minutes of evidence that had been given before these different Committees. At any rate, if hon. Members did not read those Blue-books they should be very careful with regard to any statements they might make in reference to lascars and other important questions affecting shipping. Several hon. Members had charged him with endeavouring to drive the lascars out of British ships. He had never attempted to do anything of the kind. He raised no objection whatever to the employment of lascars on British ships, but he did think that the lascar, when he was employed on our vessels, should not be brought in competition with our own men for the sole purpose of driving our own men out of the vessel. He was surprised at some hon. Members sitting on the Ministerial side, who had talked so much about Chinese Labour, and yet seemed to be in love with lascar labour, although the lascars were working under conditions which were worse than those under which Chinamen were working in the Transvaal. On the question of feeding alone—he maintained that the food that was given on many of our British ships to lascars was much worse than that given to the Chinamen in the compounds in the Transvaal. Again, on the question of pay, the Chinaman had a long way the advantage of the lascar on board the British ships. Those who employed lascars said they did not employ them on the ground of cheapness. He denied that entirely. The one reason for the employment of lascars was cheapness. Were hon. Members aware that lascars received in the way of wages as low a sum as 16s. per month for firemen, whilst the highest wages paid to a lascar fireman did not exceed 26s. a month? If they were going to consider those employed on British ships, and if they were going to consider lascars as British 1114 subjects, why not consider the conditions under which they worked as well as the conditions under which British seamen work? The lascar ought to have some consideration even at the hands of the House of Commons. He knew—and he thought he could speak with some authority on this question—that there was great dissatisfaction among the lascars themselves as to the manner in which they were treated. Some hon. Members had said that the lascar was more suitable for the tropical climates than the white man. If that were so, why not confine the employment of lascars to tropical climates? Why bring them into cold climates when they were not suited to that kind of work? His attitude in regard to lascars was this. When lascars were first employed on British ships their labour was confined to certain degrees of latitude, thirty-eight degrees North and thirty-eight degrees South. He thought some provision should be made under which lascars should not be employed on British vessels going into the high latitudes with the exception, of course, of the lascars employed on the mail boats trading to and from ports in the United Kingdom and ports in India. The lascar question, as far as it affects the Britisher, was in itself more serious than the way in which it affected the foreigner. He did not want to do anything to deprive the lascar of employment. As long as the ship-owner could get lascars whom he could feed at 5d. a day and pay 20s. a month wages, he would not employ Britishers who would cost 1s. or 1s. 2d. a day for food and £4 10s. a month for wages. The shipowners who believed in cheap labour would give the preference to the lascar instead of the Britisher under these circumstances. If the lascar was confined to the coast of India or to certain latitudes 38° N. and 38° S. he should raise no objection to his employment at all. All he asked was that the lascar should not be brought into competition with the Britisher in this country, thus depriving British seamen of the chance of employment. It was not only the lascars they had to consider; they had also to consider the case of the Chinaman. There were a large number of Chinamen employed on British ships to-day. 1115 It was said that all of them came from Hong-Kong, and they were described as natives of Hong-Kong. As a matter of fact, they were not natives of Hong-Kong, but that was entered into the articles of agreement as a matter of business. With regard to this measure itself, he had no hesitation in describing it as a shipowners' Bill and nothing else. The whole of its provisions, with one or two exceptions, were entirely in favour of the shipowner. On the introduction of the Bill he said that there were certain principles which he thought were very good, and which he thought would go a long way to improve the condition of the seamen. But now that he had got the Bill, and had gone carefully into every one of the clauses, he found that as far as the Bill applied to seamen in its present form it was an absolute failure. Unless the right honourable Gentleman would carry out his intention of throwing the Bill upon the mercy of the Committee he had no hopes of its success; but if he did that he had some hope that they might get a Bill that would really do some good for sailors and firemen. Let the House take the first part of the Bill with regard to the application of the British load-line and other regulations to foreign ships. He would just like to say, with reference to that part of the Bill, that they were confining the operations of the measure to ports in the United Kingdom. And why? Foreign ships trading to our ports in India came in competition with our British ships in foreign ports, and there was just as much danger for the foreign ship to be in an Indian port overladen as there would be in a port in the United Kingdom. The same principle applied to ports in our colonies. He understood that the Board of Trade said they could not apply this to our colonies because they had their own Merchant Shipping Acts. He did not agree with the President of the Board of Trade in that contention, because the Merchant Shipping Acts of Australia and New Zealand dealt only with vessels that were owned and registered in New Zealand and Australia, and not with our own ships that were registered in the United Kingdom. The same applied with regard to India. 1116 There was the Indian Merchant Shipping Act, which did not deal with vessels; that were registered and owned in this country, but applied only to vessels that were registered and owned in India. So that he saw no reason—at least he would like to have some very good reason given—why this Bill, in applying the regulations to foreign ships, should not apply to all our British colonies and British possessions abroad. He thought the Government would do well to take that into their careful consideration and give the Bill a much wider application than was proposed now. Shipowners were well able to stand up for themselves, but he did support that part of the Bill on grounds of safety and not on grounds of protection. Some hon. Members on the Opposition side had endeavoured to make capital out of the Bill by saying that the Government were drifting towards protection by inserting certain clauses in a measure of this kind. He did not agree with them. He thought reasonable and fairminded men would say that the Government were justified in endeavouring to protect even foreigners in our ports, or at least the lives of the men employed. They were not seeking to impose on foreign vessels regulations that did not apply to our ships. They were only asking that the foreigner should be subject once he was in our country and in our ports to the same supervision as any British subject. With regard to the portion o the Bill which dealt with the question of the seaman, the first part had reference to the question of seamen and their food. In Clause 2 of Section 20 there was a proposal which, when they got into Committee, he should certainly have something more to say about, and he would endeavour to move an Amendment to it, because in a way it robbed the seaman of his right to compensation where the owner of the ship had failed to supply the proper quantity of food. He maintained that if a shipowner engaged a man under an agreement to supply him with a certain quantity of food, and he failed to supply that food in accordance with agreement or Act of Parliament, the seaman was entitled to compensation if he could prove that the shipowner had not 1117 complied with his contract. The third part of the same section provided—His Majesty may by Order in Council vary or add to the scale of provision set out in the First Schedule to this Act.What was the good of inserting in an Act of Parliament a food scale, and then allowing the Board of Trade or anyone else to alter it, without bringing the matter before the House of Commons, by Order in Council? They would whittle that scale away. It was possible that they might add to it, but he was not at all alarmed that they would. But he had very great fear about taking away from it. That portion of the Bill did not recommend itself to him; and in Committee he should endeavour to have that clause removed. Then again, he was dissatisfied with the clause dealing with the inspection of provisions. That was Clause 21 and the sub-sections. What happened to-day with reference to the inspection of food? A ship was bound on a voyage, say, for two years and the food must be inspected under Act of Parliament. There was no provision made in this Bill as to the quantity of food that should be inspected before the voyage commenced, so that a shipowner could put three months' stores on board and have them inspected, and then after the ship had been away three months on the voyage he could take in inferior stores that would not be inspected, because the ship was on the voyage. He wanted to ask his right hon. friend if he thought that that was a sufficient safeguard of the interests of the seamen. If a shipowner engaged a crew for, say, twelve months, there ought to be twelve months' stores taken on board, and the whole of those stores should be inspected before the vessel sailed. As a matter of fact, at the present time a good many ships escaped their inspection because they started out on a voyage supposed to be for the Black Sea. Under the present law there was no inspection there, and when they got to the Black Sea they got a charter for India, and went through the Canal and the stores were not inspected at all. The result was that the men had to take inferior provisions during the whole of the voyage. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman's intentions would be to make this Bill at least a 1118 reasonable one, giving not only protection to the shipowner, but also some degree of protection to the seamen on board ship. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would take that matter into his serious consideration when they got into Committee, and that he would be ready to accept Amendments which would give some safeguard with regard to the interest of the men who were employed on the ship. His opinion was that the agreements now in existence were too long. The idea of signing men on steamers nowadays for three years! It was no advantage to a seaman to sign on for a three years' engagement. It did not mean that because he signed on for three years he would be kept on. As a matter of fact, he could be discharged at the end of a month if the vessel returned to the United Kingdom. It would be a great advantage if shipowners would cut down the period of agreements to six months or twelve months, because it was seldom that vessels went away for more than twelve months. There were cases where vessels remained away three or four years from the United Kingdom, but they were not very numerous. An average voyage would not exceed eight or nine months. The House had heard a lot about the cook. Considerable amusement was caused last week when this Bill was introduced with regard to the cook who was no cook at all. In the first place he did not know why the right hon. Gentleman proposed that they should wait until 1908 for this cook. He would like his right hon. friend just to note that. Why should they wait until 1908! [Cries of "To take out his degree" and "To prove his efficiency."] He thought they might have him at an earlier stage than that, and he would suggest that it should be 1907. But the remarkable point in regard to the clause was that the cook was only to be employed when vessels were leaving the British Islands. Surely, if it was a hardship for seamen to have to put up with ill-cooked food on vessels sailing from the United Kingdom, it must be equally a hardship in cases where British vessels engaged their crews, say, on the Continent, between the Elbe and Brest, and he would advise the right hon. Gentleman to extend that clause a bit. There was no reason why, wherever the crews 1119 were engaged, they should not have a good man for cook. But to qualify for the position of cook a man must be able to prove six months' service at sea in some capacity. He might have been a lower-deck sweeper with service for six months. Then, if he went to a school of cookery, he could ship as a full rate cook. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman seriously intended that to be so. They must have a little bit better qualification than that. Judging by the Bill, anyone could qualify for cook, and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman in Committee would be ready to accept Amendments to ensure getting a cook that would give satisfaction. It was a very serious matter. The cook on board a ship was a very important man. Then he found that the Board of Trade were asking powers to dispense with this qualification altogether, if they thought fit. This was what the clause said—If the requirements of this section are not complied with in the case of any ship, the master or owner of the ship shall, if those requirements have not been dispensed with under this section, and there is no sufficient reason for the failure to comply with the requirements, for each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty-five pounds, but a prosecution under this section shall not be instituted otherwise than by, or with the consent of, the Board of Trade.Why should they trouble the Board of Trade to prosecute in a case where they had not had a competent cook on board ship? He thought the right hon. Gentleman might leave it to the men themselves to raise an action if they had not been served with proper food. In regard to the question of the repatriation of seamen, it was quite evident that the Board of Trade had not given full consideration to the many recommendations that had been made by Committees appointed by this House. One of the strongest points that they could urge upon the right hon. Gentleman was the question of the sick seamen. Under the present regulations of the Board of Trade—he did not admit it was in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act—if a seaman in consequence of sickness, malaria, fever, rheumatism, pneumonia, or any other disease was left in a hospital abroad, the wages that might be due to that seaman were used for the purpose of 1120 paying the hospital expenses, and of conveying him, when convalescent, to a port in the United Kingdom. He had a case brought to his notice last week where a seaman had been for nine or ten months on a ship, and had unfortunately been seized with fever in one of the ports of Java. He was put on shore and at the time he left the ship there was due to him £23 for wages. He afterwards shifted from one port to another, and when he arrived in the United Kingdom he was informed that, he was in debt to the Board of Trade to the extent of £3. This benevolent Department had seized the whole of this man's wages to defray the expense of his detention in the hospital and his conveyance home. Why should that be? If a man was shipwrecked he might have £100 due to him, and the expense of his conveyance home was thrown upon the shipowners. He maintained that a seaman who was shipwrecked in health was in a worse position than one who was shipwrecked by the loss of his ship, and yet the Board of Trade—as he thought, in defiance of the law—refused to pay his expenses. He had argued this point out with the Board of Trade for years, and had asked them to show him, if they could, under what Section of the Merchant Shipping Act they could take the wages of a sick seaman in order to pay for his hospital expenses and his conveyance to the United Kingdom. No man had been able to show him any section of the Merchant Shipping Act which justified that. He spoke with some degree of feeling on this point, because he was once a victim. He was laid up in the hospital at Constantinople with fever. He was a married man. He had £20 wages due to him, and he was told he would get that sum on arrival at Liverpool. However, when he got to Liverpool he was informed that he was £3 in debt to the Board of Trade, and he had no money to give his wife and no money to take him home, because all his wages had been taken to pay his expenses in the hospital and to reach Liverpool. This had been going on ever since 1854, and in his opinion, and in the opinion of a large number of legal gentlemen to whom he had submitted the section of the Merchant 1121 Shipping Act, the Board of Trade had no right to throw the cost of the conveyance home of sick seamen on their wages. The right hon. Gentleman was dealing with this question in this Bill, but he was not dealing with the particular point to which he had referred, and if there was any doubt of the law on that point, now was the time to have it cleared up. He trusted that when they get into Committee an Amendment would be accepted dealing with the point. Section 207 of the Merchant Shipping Act provided that whenever a seaman received any hurt or injury on board ship, the owner should be responsible for hospital expenses and his conveyance home. He wanted to go a step further and apply "injury or hurt" to "illness." He was sure that shipowners generally would vote with him for such an Amendment. He did not believe that they would object to pay the expense of the conveyance home of men whose constitutions had been shattered in consequence of being taken to sickly climates against their will. He had known cases where men had been taken to ports in America where yellow fever prevailed, to go to which was almost certain death. When these men objected, they were threatened with imprisonment. In the case of one ship, out of a crew of twenty-four men not six got out alive; and yet those who had gone into hospital and survived were put to the expense of getting home to the United Kingdom, and their wages, on which their wives were depending, were used in paying the expenses incurred while they were in hospital. He was quite sure that on all sides of the House he would get support in making that point clear. In regard to the qualifications for able seamen, there again the Board of Trade were at fault. He did not blame his right hon. friend; he blamed the permanent officials. He could see the hand of the permanent officials in almost every line of this Bill and of legislation of this kind. The Bill proposed to reduce the qualifications for able seamen from four to three years sea service. Well, he did not object to that, and he would tell the House why. They did not require the kind of sailors on steamers 1122 that was formerly required on sailing ships. Sailing ships were disappearing, and therefore they could with safety accept men with only three years' sea service to qualify them as A.B's. But why, when they come to an engagement, had they the word "may" instead of the word "shall? "He held that the superintendent, when engaging a man as an able seaman, should insist on that man's having had the necessary sea service; he had no right to complete an agreement unless that man could comply with the law. An hon. Gentleman talked about boy sailors. One would imagin that there was a great scarcity of able seamen in this country. As a matter of fact there were more seamen in the labour market than could obtain employment. His hon. friend shook his head, but he invited him to come with him for a week's round of British ports, and he would surprise him as to the great difficulty which the men had in obtaining employment as seamen. There were scores of British seamen in every port who would tell him that they had been eight weeks out of employment and could not obtain a ship. He had had some experience on that point. He did not confine his labours to the House of Commons. He was very often to be found at different shipping ports and at the places where British seamen were engaged, and he was able to observe the number of men who could not get employment. There was also the question of stokers and men engaged in the firemen's department. His right hon. friend had lost sight of one of the most important Committees appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into the very important question of the manning of British ships. That Committee was appointed because a ship foundered in Brandon Bay and twenty-two valuable lives were lost in consequence of there not being a sufficient number of sailors on board to navigate the ship. In 1893 he moved for the appointment of the Committee, which was granted, and it sat under the chairmanship of Sir Edward Reed, one of the ablest men on shipping matters in this country. That Committee sat for two years and fully inquired into the manning of British ships, and drafted a manning 1123 scale for the deck department, and also for the stoke-hold. They recommended that where ships were undermanned, they were to be regarded as unseaworthy; and a Bill was passed through this House to make undermanned ships unseaworthy. But it was forgotten to pass a manning scale, and to say what under-manning really meant. The Committee, however, recommended many important reforms. One of them was that firemen or stokers on board ship should have a certain qualification; that no man should be entitled to be rated as a fireman unless he had six months of sea service as a trimmer. In the Royal Navy a fireman must be a man of good character, not under twenty-one years of age, nor above thirty-five, and able to prove two years' service, of which at least one year was as a fireman or trimmer. He wanted to know why we could not follow out the recommendation of the Manning Committee and give a qualification to fire-men. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there were very strong reasons for this. Very often there was trouble on board ship with firemen. And why? A ship would sign on six men; but in all probability three out of the six were not firemen at all, and not competent to do firemen's work; and when the vessel reached the Red Sea or got out into the main ocean in bad weather three of these men were unable to work. The consequence was that the other three had to do the work of six men. If they refused they could be charged with refusing to obey the lawful commands of the master and officers of the ship and were liable to be sentenced to be imprisoned for twelve weeks with or without hard labour. Why should not the Board of Trade protect the fireman from having incompetent colleagues? Why, also, should they not protect the shipowner by making a similar provision? If the shipowner engaged a fireman who was not a fireman he wasted the coal, and in that way injured the shipowner as well as causing his fellow workmen to run a risk which they ought not to be called upon to do. An incompetent stoker or fireman could destroy a ton of coal in twenty-four hours without producing any steam, and he recommended 1124 that men who had been employed on shore as stokers should have at least one month's experience as trimmers at sea in order to give them an opportunity of getting over their sea-sickness and getting their sea legs. In that way we should secure competent stokers and firemen. He was sure that that proposal would have the support of all Members in this House who were connected with the Navy, because it was of primary importance that we should get men who were qualified to do their work as firemen or stokers. In regard to the Act of 1886, he thought that the Government were altering it in such a way as would be unfavourable to the seamen. When this Bill got into Committee he should have something to say on that point, because it appeared to him that the Bill deprived seamen of certain privileges which they had at the present time. He passed on to another subject and came to the question of Naval Courts. A Naval Court did not mean, as many supposed, a Court composed of naval officers. It could be composed of a Consul, who might be the agent for the shipowner, and two captains of merchant ships. During the war between Russia and Japan there was a ship carrying contraband of war at Port Arthur when the Japanese bombarded the place. The vessel was in the line of fire, and the crew had a lively time for ten hours, one man being struck by a shell. Eventually they got to a port in Japan, and there found that their ship was chartered to run for a Japanese company for six months. The crew objected, and asked to be allowed to conclude their agreements. The captain refused, and no satisfaction could be got from the British Consul. Some of the British Consuls abroad had a very high and mighty way of dealing with seamen. This Consul summoned a Naval Court which was composed of himself and two captains, who themselves had been running contraband of war. The crew was brought before the Court, which, in less than one hour, the men having no opportunity to obtain legal defence, decided that the crew should be dismissed and forfeit the whole of their wages. That was a Naval Court, and according to the Merchant Shipping Act its finding was conclusive. That was to say, the two old merchant captains who ran contraband of war and one Consul 1125 had a higher power than the highest Court in the land. He asked only for fair play in inviting the support of the House in clipping the wings of the Naval Courts. In regard to Advisory Committees, in his opinion they should be compulsory, and he thought it should be laid down that there should be equal representation of all parties upon them. They always liked to see the Board of Trade represented on these Committees, but they did not want too many representatives. They could get on all right with the shipowner on many points, and at all events they could agree to differ. In regard to the food scale, he understood that there was a suggestion that cocoa, tomatoes, and bacon should be omitted. Of course, the dietary of ships going certain voyages might have to be varied, but he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would re-consider the matter, and see whether these articles could not be restored.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton Manor had persisted in describing this Bill as a protectionist measure, but it was nothing of the kind. Why should they suppose that to put a load-line upon a foreign ship was the same proposition as putting a tax on foreign goods? As to the protective character of this measure, the idea that the exclusion of foreign goods and the exclusion of foreign men from this country were parts of the same argument was really not tenable; in fact it was all the other way. Those very persons who wished to exclude foreign goods were always the same persons, in every other part of the world but this, who wished to have foreign workmen. Therefore, it was not reasonable to suggest that this was a protectionist measure. The second object of the Bill was, of course, one which had a different aspect, namely, to see that the great proportion of seamen who served on English ships were English. The right hon. Gentleman went a little too far in complaining of the decay of the number of British seamen serving in British ships, for, in point of fact, there were in the last thirty years 35,000 more than there were 1126 before. That number, of course, included those who served in the Navy. In endeavouring to secure a larger number of men of this country to man the ships they must remember how large was the number of ships which never came to England at all. His right hon. friend in his opening statement pointed out that half the trade in the world was carried in British ships. That was, he believed, the case; but he added that there were a certain number of those ships which never came into British ports at all, except at very long intervals. He was assured on very high authority that in point of fact one quarter of the whole was foreign trade carried in British ships which never came to this country at all. If that immense proportion of the tonnage of Great Britain never came to England at all, it was obviously very difficult to ensure that that proportion should be manned by Britishers, because he was assured on the same authority that British sailors would not remain on those ships; and he thought it would be hard to induce men to stay on ships which never came to England. He was assured by those who endeavoured to man our ships by British seamen that they found it very difficult to do so in the case of ships which never returned to this country. He entirely agreed that for reasons of strategy we should be well advised to adopt measures to secure a great proportion of Britishers in British ships. There were one or two smaller matters which had better be discussed in Committee; but he would ask his right hon. friend whether he considered it would be within the scope of this Bill to insert a provision by which some arrangements could be made for British seamen to vote by proxy at the general election. He knew that further provisions would have to be made in another Bill, but probably facilities might be given in this Bill also. It seemed to him to be a matter of some importance in which seamen took an interest. He believed that this could in no sense be described as a protective measure. The measure was in the best interests of the shipping industry, and he endorsed the opinion that in safeguarding the interests of the British shipowner 1127 they would be safeguarding the interests of the British seaman.
§ SIR ROBERT ROPNER (Stockton)
said shipowners in the country seemed to feel that they had not had sufficient opportunity to consider this Bill before the Second Reading. All he wished to ask the President of the Board of Trade was that he would assure the House that they would have ample opportunity of considering the Bill before it went before a Committee. He held a letter in which shipowners pointed out a good man matters which they considered of very great importance, and in which he agreed with them. But he would not take up the time of the House by going carefully into these points, because there would be opportunity to consider them in Committee. There were one or two matters, however, he wished to mention. In regard to the diet scale, he could not see why the Board of Trade should alter that. As to the load-line, he was afraid there were many men, not only in this House but in the country, who had not a very kindly feeling towards shipowners, and he had frequently heard it said that this load-line had to be imposed because steamers were wilfully lost in order to recover insurance. He had not heard anything of that kind lately, but he should like to point out that the shipowners with regard to that load-line had suffered under a very great disqualification in competing with foreign ships; and what had happened? First, a load-line was imposed upon shipowners which was far beyond what was required for safety. [Cries of "No."] The load-line was altered within a very short time. Since then they had had considerable experience—he did not refer to shipowners only of this country, but of all countries. What was the fact to-day? For example, Germany in many of its ports had required a load-line, but they had found, so far as the load-line for English vessels was concerned, it was considerably more than what was absolutely required for safety. What were they doing to-day? They were levelling down the load-line to what the Germans had been doing for some time, and they must admit that unquestionably a mistake had been made in that respect, and that the British shipowners in comparison with the foreign 1128 shipowners have been suffering under a very great injustice and disqualification. That had been admitted on all hands. The Board of Trade were now regulating the load-line on the same lines as foreign nations. He mentioned this fact to show that, after all, there was generally something to be said on both sides, and that mistakes might be made in trying to do too much as well as too little. He hoped that when the Bill emerged from Committee it would give satisfaction both to British shipowners and to British sailors, and that no further attempt would be made for some years to interfere with trade, because continual interference with trade of this description must do a very large amount of harm not only to the owners, but also to the men.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
The debate this afternoon has partaken very largely of the nature of a Committee discussion, and I think we ought to be very glad that that is the case. There has been no attack upon the principle of the Bill; it has been purely a criticism of details. Some of those criticisms, I think, had a good deal of force in them, and some, I must say, were not well grounded; but they are more or less Committee points. I do not think hon. Members will find that the Government will resist any reasonable Amendment which is submitted for the purpose of amending or strengthening the Bill in any way. Some of the criticisms are directed to saying that we have gone too far, others that we have not gone quite far enough. That proves that we have taken the middle course, which is generally thought to be the course of safety. I shall endeavour to answer most of the points, although I am afraid I cannot answer every one. The hon. Baronet who represents the shipowners—and, if I may, I wish to acknowledge the assistance which he gave before the Bill was introduced—wanted us to give ample time to shipowners to consider the details of the Bill before it went to the Standing Committee to which I propose that the Bill be sent. I am afraid that this is not in our hands. He need not apprehend any danger on that score. There are two Bills before that Committee, and I think it 1129 will take some time before they are cleared out of tie way; and so I think there will be ample time for the consideration of all details of the measure before that Committee begins its work. The only other point made by the hon. baronet to which I should like to refer, is that in which he objects to our having any power to alter the food scale. One hon. Gentleman is afraid that if we exercise some of our dispensing powers it will be rather to the detriment of the seamen; while another hon. Gentleman said it would impose additional burdens on the shipowners. Therefore, I think on the whole the Board of Trade may be trusted.
§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
I did not object to alterations being made if made by a Committee representative of all Parties.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is why I have put an Advisory Committee in the Bill. I quite agree that those whose interests are primarily affected should be consulted before any alteration is introduced, not merely with regard to the food scale but with regard to the load-line and other matters. Now I come to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, who regards this as a shipowners' Bill. It is the first Bill that has ever been characterised as a shipowners' Bill, and I am surprised he should so term it. A food scale and a certificated cook would be, I should have thought, in the interests of the sailors; but I am perfectly certain that if the hon. Gentleman says they are of no use to the.sailors, the shipowners will not object to their elimination from the Bill. The hon. Gentleman was rather keen on tomatoes: in fact, there was quite a pathos in his voice when he mentioned them. I can assure him that the food scale has been considered very carefully, and it is on the whole a better food scale than that in the Navy; and therefore I do not think we can enforce anything better at the present moment. It is not for the House of Commons to turn round on the private shipowners and say, "Although we will not vote money to improve the food scale of the Navy, we are going to compel you to improve your scale." The first example should certainly be set by the House of Commons 1130 itself. The other point raised by the hon. Gentleman is the question of distressed seamen. It struck me that he made out a very strong case for Amendment. The question raised as to trimmers and firemen and other matters are questions to be looked into, but they are all matters of detail which I do not think it advisable to go into at the present moment. As regards the Naval courts, I am not quite sure whether there would not be an appeal on a point of law in such a case as has been mentioned. At any rate, I will promise to look into it, and I certainly think there ought to be. But I do not understand the objections to the clause, which is entirely in the interests of the seamen. In the case of Panama or Sierra Leone, where prisons are exceedingly bad and where imprisonment may be fatal, I am sure the men would prefer to be sent home to a decent gaol. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Abercromby Division of Liverpool was perfectly right in regard to foreign trade. I am told it is absolutely impossible to get British sailors to remain on British ships that trade for years between one foreign port and another. You may get officers, and as a matter of fact you do get officers, but you cannot get sailors to do it; and the result is that the owners of these ships are driven, if they are to run their ships at all, to get foreign sailors in such circumstances. My hon. and gallant friend asked me a question with regard to the proportion of the international carrying trade of Great Britain which is conveyed between one port and another. There are no reliable statistics on the point, but I do not think he has guessed far wrong. It is something like one-third or one-half, but it is a matter of pure conjecture. Then he put a question with regard to voting by sailors. I am entirely in sympathy with the object, but I am very much afraid it does not come within the four corners of this Bill; it is a matter for the Home Office. He might however, introduce the matter by an Amendment, though I do not think it would come properly within this Bill. This Bill is to amend the Merchant Shipping Act, and there is nothing whatever in regard to elections in that Act. I should like to say a word or two in regard to what fell from the right hon. 1131 Gentleman the Member for Croydon. I understand, on the whole, that he rather approves of the Bill, though he passed some criticisms upon it. One of those criticisms was passed by several other hon. Members who took part in the discussion. It was in regard to alien pilots. I made a statement on the First Reading of the Bill with regard to alien pilots. I said it was very largely a matter of our Treaty obligations, and, before introducing the Bill, I submitted the matter to the law officers of the Crown. I am sorry to say I have not yet had their opinion on the subject, but from what I have heard I think it is extremely likely that we may be able to do something on that point. It would be wrong for me, however, to pledge myself on that subject until I receive their opinion; but I may say there is no objection in principle, so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, to introduce some clause dealing with this matter. I put it entirely on the ground of national safety. If the right hon. Gentleman looks into the Report of the Select Committee on Pilotage he will find that the view, as regards national safety, was supported with ananimity by the Trinity House of London, and other witnesses.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I know there is one witness from the Admiralty who did not take that view, but I think, on the whole, the evidence was that they considered it a matter of national safety, that there was a certain element of national danger in giving certificates to foreign pilots, and that is the view His Majesty's Government take with regard to the matter. I rather think the right hon. Gentleman exaggerated the number of such certificates; there are only eighty-five of these certificates in all. It is not a very big matter, but at the same time my personal view is that they should not be granted.
§ MR. JOYCE (Limerick)
Are those certificates growing gradually? Eighty-five may become 285 if they are not stopped.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they have not grown since I have been in the Board of Trade.
§ MR. H. H. MARKS (Kent, Thanet)
Does the right hon. Gentleman know that a Return was made in March last? Has there not been one since that date?
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I made inquiry into the matter about six weeks ago, and that was the figure given to meat the time. Whether that figure was made up to March last I cannot tell, but I do not think they have increased at all since March last. I am only putting this figure to show that from whatever point of view, it is not a very big question. It is a very small proportion of the total number of pilots. I hope that the House is now satisfied with regard to that point. As far as the Government is concerned there is no resistance in principle to the introduction of a clause doing away with these alien pilots. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has put some other points which I think are rather more controversial. He seems to suspect the Government of other motives in introducing this Bill. He acknowledged that the motive of humanity was probably all powerful, but he thought it was just possible the Government might have some other motives as well. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that after all the motive of humanity was the most powerful one. What the incidental effect of the Bill may be is quite another question. The hon. Member for Newcastle thinks this Bill will not have a protective effect, and I think he is a very competent judge. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the chief motive, in fact the dominant motive, which really influenced the Government in introducing this Bill was the motive of humanity and safety for sailors. It is exactly as if foreigners had been allowed by the law of the land to erect a factory in this country which should not be subject to the factory legislation applicable to other factories here. We are not dealing in this Bill with anything except what happens inside our own territorial waters. It simply means 1133 that until this Bill was introduced what was an offence against the law, and a criminal offence rendering the perpetrator liable to punishment by fine in the case of British subjects, was not an offence at all if committed by foreigners. That is exactly as if a foreigner had erected a factory in this country which was not subject to our factory regulations, which have been set up to protect the life and limb of Britishers. Supposing there was an instance of that sort, and the Government said "You must make the same regulations as are applicable to British subjects applicable to foreigners who build factories in this country." That is not protection; it is simply saying to the foreigner, "If you wish to come to our territories you must, of course, conform to our laws." That is the whole principle of free trade, which means that you deal with the foreigner exactly as you do with a Britisher. We have the same laws for both, and equal rights for both, within British territory, and that is the principle of free trade. The right hon. Gentleman opposite apparently does not understand the principles of his own creed, and really it seems to me that it is an example of the loose thinking that has occurred during this tariff reform agitation. If we were proposing to interfere on the high seas, that would of course be a different matter. The right hon. Gentleman really made a case against his own argument in the latter part of his speech, because he said "If you are going to interfere with the load line, why not interfere with wages and the question of accommodations?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I said that that was what the right hon. Gentleman's supporters had put forward.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there was no distinction in principle.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
But there is a very essential difference. The principle of our Bill is the safety of human life, and such questions as accommodation and wages do not affect directly the 1134 safety of life like the question of the load line. That is a clear distinction of principle upon which we are proceeding, and the principle on which the right hon. Gentleman is founding his protection theory. The right hon. Gentleman says we are interfering with foreign sailors on British ships, and asks us why we were doing that. He does not, however, challenge the action of the Government, but he does challenge our motive. He is trying to probe into the bosoms of the promoters of this Bill in order to find out what is their motive in introducing it. We say again, that our motive is safety.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am coming to that presently. The right hon. Gentleman asked us what evidence is there that this Bill will affect the safety of ships at all. Evidently he has not read the evidence upon this question. I quoted two or three cases when I introduced this Bill, and they were very strong cases indeed.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
I stated that there were a great many other cases of this description which are not touched by this Bill.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not see the point of the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. In his speech he asks, "What evidence is there?" He now says that there is abundant evidence that the safety of ships is affected by the fact that you have sailors on board who do not understand the language used by the master of the ship. That shows, I think, that His Majesty's Government are prompted, and rightly prompted, upon ample evidence, by the one consideration of the safety of the ship. That is the ground upon which we are interfering. We are not interfering in order to exclude foreigners, but to secure the safety of limb and life on British ships, and there is abundant ground and evidence to justify our doing so. The right hon. Gentleman says, "If you are going to interfere in this way, why not interfere with the lascars?" That case is very different, as anyone 1135 who knows anything about the employment of lascars could tell the right hon. Gentleman. In this case you have officers specially employed to interpret between the lascars and those in command of the ship and the officers. They have a perfect knowledge of the kind of language necessary to carry out our orders on board ship. I do not say that we impose such a test as asking the lascars to translate a Daily Telegraph article into English, or anything of that sort. But you must have some kind of a test. Here you have several officers on board a ship able to take their orders from the officers, and they are specially employed for that purpose, but if you take a foreign sailor you have nothing of that sort. He takes his orders direct from the officer, and in the cases which I quoted last week the foreigners did not understand our language at all. There was the case of a look-out man who did not understand a word of English, and the House will remember that the man who held the lifeboat cut the rope by mistake because he did not understand the order which was given, or lost his head, and did not know what to do under the circumstances, with the result that a number of lives were lost. This is purely a question of safety. I know there are cases in reference to foreign sailors, but I defy the right hon. Gentleman to produce a single case where a ship has been wrecked owing to the fact that the lascars did not understand the word of command. If he can produce evidence of that kind, then I say that he will have made out a case for reconsidering even the question of the lascars, but not until then. So much for the protectionist capital which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to make out of this Bill. The hon. Member for Aston Manor raised two or three points which, from his long experience upon Shipping Committees in this House, are entitled to every consideration. There is one of those criticisms which I thought was especially very sound as a suggestion, and that is that we should keep strictly on the ground of safety. I hope hon. Members will confine their criticism strictly to the question of safety. Another piece of advice which he gave was that we should not interfere 1136 vexatiously with foreign ships, and I say that we know the importance of that, for it would be very unwise if we imposed our special kind of appliances upon countries where they may have got something quite equal to our own. I know the risk of that. I remember at one time that the United States Government looked as if they were going to impose upon us their own special regulations, which would have compelled us practically to have adopted two sets of life-saving applicances on board our great liners. Those appliances would have been no use on this side because they would not comply with the regulations, whereas, on the other hand, our appliances did not conform to the regulations of the United States of America. I am glad that the United States of America took a sensible view, and I agree that it is important that we should interpret these regulations liberally when we come to deal with foreign countries which are doing their very best to save life upon more or less the same lines as those which we have been following for a good many years. The other point put to me was with regard to Advisory Committees. The hon. Member thought the Board of Trade was too apt to act upon its own initiative without consulting those interested. I am not quite so sure that that is a fair criticism, because the Board of Trade within the last ten or fifteen years has consulted those interested by appointing one or two Advisory Committees, one of which is sitting at the present moment with regard to the load line rules. There was an Advisory Committee, and the Board of Trade acted upon their advice, and I think that is the case more or less all round. Still I think the way in which these Advisory Committees are working justifies the Board of Trade in extending the experiment to other matters. When you come to deal with a subject like this it is very important that you should consult those who are interested. I think those we consulted represented a very important interest in the shipping and mercantile marine of this country, which ought to be consulted upon matters affecting the safety of the lives of the men employed on board ship. I think I have now dealt with most of the points which have been raised.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am afraid that the result of our investigations are not very encouraging, although I think this Bill will help matters by-and-bye. I am inclined to think that other countries will feel it so inconvenient to see one rule established for one country and another rule for another country, that they will feel it desirable to have some kind of international agreement to prevent complications. I trust that one result of the Bill will be that foreign Powers will see the wisdom of coming to some sort of common understanding of this kind. I agree that the point raised by the hon. Member is an exceedingly important one. I come now to another point raised by the hon. Member for Durham with regard to the measurement of tonnage. That is a very important matter, and I am not sure that it could come within the four corners of this Bill. It is a very complicated subject. I have gone into it within the last few days especially, and I find that a Committee, presided over by Mr. Bonar Law, is sitting on it. It has done nothing since August, and I cannot say who is responsible for the delay in reporting. I have done my very best to try to induce the Committee to report at the earliest possible moment, and I think it is desirable to get an early Report on the subject. When the Report is received I will consider whether anything can be put into this Bill on the subject. It is rather more controversial than anything I have introduced in the Bill up to the present. I want to avoid these controversial matters in a Bill of this character. There is considerable conflict between two powerful interests when you come to deal with the question of tonnage, and I am not sure that it would conduce to the smooth passage of the Bill through the Committee to introduce the question of tonnage at all. However I will bear it in mind when the Report of the Committee arrives.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
It will hardly do that, for it does not deal with the question at all, but I think it is premature to try to deal with it until we 1138 get the Report of the Committee. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree in that. Another point put by him was with regard to the space for seamen. That is really a very important matter, and I was very glad to hear him say that as a rule the space allowed by law is considerably exceeded as a matter of fact. That is the case undoubtedly, but still there is considerable evidence that the accommodation accorded to sailors on British ships, especially sailing ships, has something to do with the reluctance of men to take to the sea as a profession. The witnesses who gave evidence on that matter were all agreed that the accommodation provided had a good deal to do with the fact that boys do not care very much to take to the sea, and that after the experiment of a voyage or two they get very sick of it. That is a matter which will be brought before the Committee, and I promise to consider any Amendments submitted to me on that subject. I think I have dealt with all the questions put to me. I do not recollect any other salient point which has been raised in the course of this discussion, with which I could deal at the present moment. I appeal to the House to give a Second Reading to the Bill, and to refer it to the Committee on Trade. Since it is a Bill about which there is such general agreement, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite would not care to delay the matter by refusing permission to send it to the Committee on Trade.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I think the appeal which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has made is very reasonable, and certainly no opposition to it will come from this side of the House. I think this is a case in which the Bill may very properly be referred to the Committee on Trade. The right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on the manner in which the Bill has been received and treated. The Bill is in no sense a contentious or controversial measure. I am a little sorry that in the speech just delivered he did say a few words which were unnecessarily controversial as to what was said by my right hon. friend. I would like to point out to him that I 1139 think he has misunderstood what my right hon. friend really said. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade appears to think that my right hon. friend or others on this side of the House were imputing to the Government, and himself in particular, some hidden motives for the introduction of this Bill. I assure him that is not the case. We are perfectly content to accept his own statement as to the motives which have animated the Government and are quite ready to acknowledge that the main object of the Bill, at any rate, has been humanity and the safety of the lives of those who go to sea. That we admit, but then I think he went on to suggest that my right hon. friend wished to impute to them some protectionist motives, as he said, and to gain thereby support for his own protectionist policy. When did my right hon. friend advocate a protectionist policy? I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade will, in the same way as I have just done, give all of us credit for being animated by the motives which we have admitted in his case. I do not think that the question of protection, otherwise than as I have indicated protection of life and the safety of ships, enters into this Bill at all. Although I say that is the object of the Government in introducing the Bill, I cannot help pointing out that there are many measures which we might take, which have the definite and sole object of saving life, or giving greater security as a main condition, which may incidentally have the effect, not of granting protection to life merely, but of securing fair competition, and that is what we have claimed to be distinctively the policy of the Party on this side of the House. It is perfectly clear that in this Bill you are removing—although that is not your object and I quite understand that you are almost sorry it should be the effect—a grievance which, I think, is a serious one both from shipowners and from sailors who have hitherto been subjected to the competition of foreigners who are not subject to the same laws and the same conditions our sailors and shipowners are subject to. There is only one other point to which I shall refer. It is rather curious, I 1140 think, that the right hon. Gentleman omitted to reply to what after all is a most serious question, which was referred to by my right hon. friend and others. It was to the effect that the right hon. Gentleman should further consider the provisions of the Bill for securing that a larger proportion of the seamen on British ships should be British sailors. I venture to regard these provisions as altogether inadequate to secure the object which, I believe, the Government have in view, and which certainly the majority of this House have in view. I remember that that is part of the general principle of the Bill. It is a question partly I think of the safety of the ship, but certainly it is a question of the security of the seamen, and on the larger national ground of national defence I think we all feel that it is a desirable thing in every possible way to encourage, and, if necessary, even to insist upon, a larger proportion of seamen of British origin on our ships. I understand the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman felt when he introduced a Bill with regard to this subject. He had been told that there was not a sufficient supply of seamen, and that to prescribe that a certain proportion—a much larger proportion than at present—of the crew should be British would be to cause a number of ships to be withdrawn inasmuch as their crews could not be found. Well, I do not know who gave him that information, but the information which has come to me does not confirm it. I doubt very much whether the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, who speaks, with authority on behalf of the British seamen, will agree. We maintain that a large number of British seamen are out of employment, and that accordingly there will be no difficulty at all in making greater drafts upon them and finding them employment, not only in their own interests but in the interests of the country at large. The right hon. Gentleman says that in British ships trading between one foreign port and another there is a difficulty in retaining British seamen, as I understand it, because the British seaman wants from time to time to come home. Therefore, that foreign service is not popular. But we 1141 cannot judge as to that unless we have fall statistics in our possession. I should like to know how many British ships which do not confine themselves to foreign voyages have foreign seamen as members of their crews. At all events, to my mind, this is, I was going to say, the only unsatisfactory point in the Bill. It is a most serious point to which I attach the greatest possible importance. I do not know whether I would be competent to move myself in the matter, but I should be inclined to support any Motion made in order to secure a proper remedy for the evil which is confessed, and to provide that a fixed percentage should be established as the maximum to be allowed in the crew of a British ship to be supplied by foreign seamen. I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman should not be as gracious to British shipowners as to foreign shipowners; but if he feels that any change in that respect would be prejudicial to foreign shipowners if brought forward too speedily, he might allow the arrangement to stand over for a year or two.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Still, I understand it is the remedy put forward by those most concerned—by the representatives of the sailors. They have always insisted that that is the only remedy, short, indeed, of the entire prohibition of the employment of foreign seamen. This matter should have the consideration of the Government, otherwise we shall have to deal with it at a subsequent stage of the Bill.
§ MR. HARMOOD-BANNER (Liverpool, Everton)
asked whether it was not possible to apply these rules as to the load line to any ships coming from India, the Crown Colonies, or the other Colonies. At any rate, we should apply them to the Crown Colonies under our own control; and we should ask India to join with us for the sake of humanity in imposing the load line rules on all ships sailing from her ports. He would go further and ask the self-governing Colonies to do the same 1142 thing. We had been told by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies that we had powers to veto legislation passed by the self-governing Colonies contrary to the wishes of this House in regard to labour; and surely we could exercise that veto in a much stronger manner when it concerned the safety, the comfort, and the lives of our sailors. Therefore, he appealed to the President of the Board of Trade to make this measure complete in order that it should apply not only to the United Kingdom but to India, the Crown Colonies, and the self-governing Colonies.
§ MR. JENKINS (Chatham)
said he was satisfied with the explanation which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had given of this Bill. The primary object of the Bill was the safety of the lives of our sailors, and, after looking through all the clauses he entirely agreed that that was the aim of the right hon. Gentleman. It was satisfactory to find that foreign ships would have to comply with the same regulations in regard to the prevention of the shifting of cargo as British ships, which regulations were necessary for the safety of the ship and crew. The shifting boards throughout the bulkheads to prevent the shifting of the cargo were erected by the ship's carpenter, who was responsible for the whole construction of the vessel from keel to truck. The carpenter was excluded from the operation of the Act in so far as the Bill made no provision that he should be a qualified and certificated workman. It was absolutely necessary that greater care should be taken in the manning of the ship, in order to see that the men shipped were efficient and qualified to do their work. The right hon. Gentleman had taken care that under this Bill this should be secured in regard to certain classes of workers. He had decided that even the cooks should show that they were in some way efficient. If it was necessary that the chief officer, as well as the masters and others including the cook, should show that they were qualified, why was it not necessary that the same provision should be made in the case of a ship's carpenter? He wished to 1143 ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not consider the advisability of inserting Amendments calling upon these men to show that they were qualified for the positions which they desired to occupy.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to the Standing Committee on Trade, etc.