§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed,. "That this Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
who had given notice of his intention to move that this Bill be read a third time this day three months, said that nothing was further from his desire than that by the rejection of the Bill they should nullify the fruits and labours of the Select Committee of 1904–5. But if this Bill were rejected now the result must be that they would have a better Bill in the next session of Parliament more completely carrying out the recommendations of that Committee. That Committee was a very strong Committee. It had not merely the advantage of being presided over by his hon. friend the Member for Dulwich, but it had the advantage of the expert 1035 assistance of Mr. Charles McArthur who was at that time member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool, and whose absence from the House all old Members on whichever side they sat would regret. The evidence placed before the Committee was of such a character that it left no kind of doubt that British shipping had been in the past and was to-day grievously handicapped in competition with foreign shipping. The Committee arrived unanimously at the conclusion that the law was in such a condition that it should be thoroughly altered, putting British and foreign shipping on equal terms. And in so far as this measure was based on the recommendations of that Committee, in so far as it went in the direction of placing British shipping and foreign shipping on equal terms, he was heartily in accord with it. But the Bill like other measures that had come before the House did not correspond with the memorandum attached to it. It did not as other Bills sometimes did not really and truly do what it was intended to do. His desire was to support everything in the Bill which tended towards placing British shipping and foreign shipping on equal terms. His complaint was that it did so only to a limited extent. If this Bill became law in its present shape, they would be told next year that the circumstances had been fully considered, and that all the reasonable demands of British shipowners had been met. They were not met by this Bill. They were only partially met. He wished to bear his individual testimony to the good work of his right hon friend the President of the Board of Trade. They had in him a gentleman who had really done his best to obtain information, and who endeavoured to understand his business. The subject was entirely new to him, and he had brought to it a fresh mind and great ability, and had done his best to do right and to be fair. But he had not heard from the right hon. Gentleman any acknowledgment of the labours of the Committee of 1904–5, over which his hon friend the Member for Dulwich presided, although it seemed to him that everything that was good in this Bill was the result find the fruits of the labours of that Committee. The Committee was in no 1036 sense a party Committee nor was this Bill in any sense a Party measure. The Committee took evidence carefully, and came to very clear conclusions and, in so far as this Bill carried out the conclusions of that Committee, he was heartily and absolutely in accord with it. But let them take the declared purpose of the very first clause of the Bill, "The application of British load-line provisions to foreign ships." Any no technical reader who took up the Bill, and even those who ought to understand it, when they came to this clause, would find that it largely spoke by reference and inference, and he did not suppose there were half a dozen hon. Members in the House who by reading the clause would ascertain what it actually meant. On the margin were the words—The application of British load-line provisions to foreign ships.But upon reading the clause itself it seemed to him that it did not apply the British load-line to foreign ships That, no doubt, was approximately the result so far as outward-bound vessels were concerned; but only so far as outward vessels wore concerned. As regards homeward bound vessels he had some recollection of a bogey being raised by the Solicitor-General with regard to retaliation and the action that would be taken by foreign governments if we treated foreign vessels which arrived at our ports in the same way as we treated British vessels. He regretted that on that occasion he had been somewhat rude to the hon. and learned Gentleman. But though he might regret the actual words he used, and which he was afraid had not been very polite, that regret did not extend to the sense which he desired to convey, which was that, however great a lawyer the hon. and learned Gentleman might be, he knew nothing whatever about shipping management; and that these matters which seemed so difficult to the hon. and learned Gentleman were very easily dealt with by shipping people. He would go further and say that had the matter been left in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, a perfectly satisfactory solution would have been arrived at. There was no real 1037 difficulty in treating foreign ships in a similar manner to that in which we treated our own. The Board of Trade had only to issue an Order in Council, modifying the load line generally in regard to arrivals, which would put foreign steamers practically under the same conditions as British. It ought to be made illegal for any steamer to arrive with her deep load line awash. If a British steamer arrived in a condition which showed that she must have been over laden during the voyage she was put under penalties. If a foreign ship arrived in a similar condition she suffered no penalties at all. Then there was the question of bunker coal. A British ship was handicapped to the extent of the quantity of coal she consumed during the voyage, which might be a matter of several hundred tons. The foreign ship was under no such restriction, and might carry her bunker coal for the voyage in addition to her cargo. There would be no difficulty in putting this matter right in a future Bill without the slightest chance of raising any international complications. All the President of the Board of Trade would have to do would be to see that a record was kept of the condition in wh.ch every vessel bound for this country left port, and to determine the arrival load line accordingly, by treating every arriving vessel as if the coal consumed during the voyage were still on board. This Bill would not be of much use unless foreign and British ships were put on an equal footing. In many cases the whole difference between profit and loss lay in the advantage which foreign vessels had over the British with regard to bunker coal. For years, under the free trade fetish, we had allowed foreign ships to compete unfairly with us. It was too late to repair the mischief of the past, but it was not too late to prevent the continuance of that mischief in the future. This Bill did not go far enough and should be withdrawn, the load-line question ought to be threshed out again, and a new Bill brought in which should contain all that was good in this Bill and put both British and foreign ships really upon an equality. He noticed that Clause 6 was described as "Saving for ships coming in under 1038 stress of weather, etc." The most important part of that phrase was the "etc." because when the clause was read it was found that any foreign vessel might, under certain circumstances, come into a British port for the purpose of taking in bunker coal; she could take in hundreds of tons and do anything she pleased. That was all included in "etc." Under this clause a foreign vessel which had been overloaded all the voyage could come into a British port alongside a British vessel which carried hundreds of tons less and yet could not be touched because she only came in for bunker coal.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE, Carnarvon Boroughs)
said that the hon. Gentleman was mistaken. If a ship came in for bunker coal it would be in exactly the same position as if it, came in to discharge cargo.
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER
said he did not think so; but if it were made clear that the clause meant what the right hon. Gentleman said, his objection would be disposed of. There was a great deal in this Bill that required to be made clear. He had rather associated this clause with the replacement of some portion of the coal that had been used on the voyage, and he thought his interpretation was right. Clause 10 dealt with the loading of timber. That clause was of very doubtful value either to the seaman or to the ship-owner, and he doubted whether it ought to be in the Bill at all. The interpretation of the clause might carry the inference that the bulwarks of a ship should be seven feet high. Hon. Members who like himself had been on the sea would agree that bulwarks of that height, however they might add to the comfort of a ship in moderate weather, would add considerably to the danger the ship would incur in bad weather Unless the ship was provided with freeing ports for the water which came on board, there would be left a space in which a great mass of water might be confined to the great danger of the vessel. It was said that wood loaded to the top of the bulwarks would keep out the water and make the ship safe. But what about 1039 the people having to go about the ship with wood loaded up to the top of the bulwarks, without a rail and no protection whatever, except perhaps a life line which was a very poor protection? There was a great deal to be said in favour of the view that this clause was an undesirable one. Clause 13 dealt with the prohibition as to the engaging of seamen with an insufficient knowledge of English. That sounded reasonable, but knowing what he did of the conditions under which some ship owners conducted their business he wondered how they came so readily to agree to it. One of the leading ship owning firms in this country, Messrs. Alfred Holt & Co., who were of the same politics as the right hon. Gentleman, and whose ships traded between Liverpool and the Chinese ports, had about 2,000 Chinese on board their ships. Prom a business point of view these Chinese people were very satisfactory, but he did not at first under it and how the language test was got over in that case. He wondered whether the President of the Board of Trade knew. But if they read this clause they would see that before the language test could be applied the seamen must be engaged at some port of the British Isles or between the River Elbe and Brest. He did not suppose these 2,000 well - behaved Chinamen who were serving in British ships were engaged in the particular manner described in the clause, and therefore they were free from the operations of the Bill. There were a great many parts of the Bill to which he took exception. Clause 51 said—Where it appears to the Commissioners of Customs that there is any doubt as to the title of any ship registered as a British ship to be so registered, they may direct the registrar of the port of registry of the ship to require evidence to be given to his satisfaction that the ship was entitled to be registered as a British ship.One would suppose at a first glance that this clause was intended to provide whereby no ship could be registered as a British ship unless she was a British ship. Nothing of the kind. Foreigners could not own British ships, but there was nothing in the world to prevent foreigners forming a limited liability company, registering the company in London, and being owners of the vessels. The President of the Board of Trade not unfrequently spoke elo- 1040 quently of the great extent of British shipping, but he was apt to forget, and many forgot, that about 1,000,000 tons of the finest shipping in the world that sailed under the British flag was not British at all and would not in any way be touched by this clause. The magnificent fleet of vessels of which the White Star Line was one, belonged to what was known as the American Combine. Although the ships were registered in this country, the shares of those companies were mostly held elsewhere. [Cries of "No, no."] He knew what he was talking about. These ships were practically owned in the United States of America, and under this Bill they would still continue to be registered under the British Flag, although they were not British owned ships in the true sense of the word. Our American friends were very shrewd business people, and they had delightful arrangements whereby they combined the advantages of both countries and got the protection of the British laws while they were sufficiently American to be fairly safe in getting all that the American law gave. He did not like this clause relating to the ownership and registration of vessels. It ought to be, in some future Bill, so amended as to make it quite clear that no ship would be entitled to a British register unless there were two-thirds or at all events some considerable proportion really bona fide British property. No one could point to this Bill as a complete settlement of the questions in regard to which British ship owners had a right to complain. He thought much more was being claimed for the Bill than it actually did. When they came to the question of deduction of spaces used for water ballast in ascertaining the dues paying tonnage, he might point out that complaint had reasonably been made of the insufficient amount of water ballast carried by many steamers. It had been said with perfect truth that some of these vessels would be safer if they carried more water ballast, and it had also been said with perfect truth that the vessels of the particular construction which Clause 51 was intended to favour were perfectly safe and desirable ships. The vessels to which he referred were an extremely good type of ship which ought not to be discouraged. He bad 1041 heard builders point out this in recommending this new type of vessel. One vessel of this description got into trouble and was actually saved and brought into port by reason of these top side water ballast tanks. But did not this show that these spaces were really useful and necessary for the purposes of flotation? They were required in order to enable the vessel to carry her weight, and therefore should be added to the tonnage. He disliked the clause as it stood because it was unfair and because it favoured a particular class of vessel. He was very far from making any personal charge, but it so happened that the owners of these vessels sat only on the Ministerial side of the House. They had had an opportunity, perfectly legitimate and fair, of representing their views to the President of the Board of Trade. He did not blame them for that.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he must correct his hon. friend. He thought he was going a little too far. The only shipowners who had had an opportunity of representing their views in the sense of which the hon. Gentleman spoke were the Chairman and the Secretary of the Parliamentary Committee of Ship owners. The Chairman was sitting on the hon. Gentleman's own side. The Secretary sat on the Ministerial side. He also heard Mr. Cuthbert Law, who was Secretary of the Shipping Federation, and who, he thought, belonged to the same Party as the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER
said it was the fact that his shipbuilding friends were in favour of the clause. He would be in favour of it himself if he was a shipbuilder. He did not blame them. It was a business question. It benefited that particular class of ship, and held out a vista of shipbuilding orders designed to meet the new conditions and which would enable new ships so constructed to compete unfairly with other vessels.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I simply interrupted because the hon. Gentleman said I had consulted shipping men only on this side of the House.
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER
said he did not say that. What he said was that 1042 Gentlemen on his own side of the House who were interested in this particular class of vessel had the ear of the right hon. Gentleman; but that ship owners generally were not in favour of the clause. Ship owners who were interested in the particular class of vessel which was favoured by this clause were in favour of it, but generally ship owners were not in favour of it, His contention was that such water ballast spaces as Clause 51 would exempt were absolutely necessary for the flotation of the ship and that there was just as much reason why they should be added to the tonnage as there was for any other part of the vessel.
§ SIR ROBERT ROPNER (Stockton)
said he wished to call attention to the fact, as he had done before, that when this Bill was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman he gave ship owners to understand that in future foreign ships would be treated exactly the same as English ships, and for that reason ship owners supported the right hon. Gentleman and submitted to clauses in this Bill to which they would not otherwise have submitted If the Bill had applied the British load line provisions to foreign ships he would not have complained, but it did not do so. He was perfectly well aware that under the new Bill foreign ships would have to have a load line the same as English ships, but that was only an advantage in appearance. It was not an advantage to British ship owners at all. Up to now the Board of Trade had insisted on foreign vessels being loaded in English ports similarly to British vessels, and the officials would stop those ships that were overloaded. What British ship owners expected to get was that all ships arriving in our ports would be treated similarly to their own ships.
§ SIR ROBERT ROPNER
said they were not. The facts were that to-day foreign vessels might arrive in our ports with the load line awash, having made five-sixths of the voyage overloaded; but they had burnt 100 or more tons of bunker coal during the passage. If British ships arrived with their load line awash 1043 the owners were proceeded against, because the vessels must have been overloaded when they left the last port. This was not a small matter. If this Bill had placed foreign ships in the same position as our own ship owners would have applauded it. British ship owners were thoroughly dissatisfied with the measure, because they were being subjected to a scale of wages for seamen which would entail considerable extra cost. The provision that coolies had to be certificated also meant that they would have to be paid higher wages. They would never have submitted to the conditions imposed under the Bill had they known that foreigners were not going to be treated in the same way as English Owners. Ship owners had been entirely misled. He desired especially to call attention to Clause 72 in regard to which he understood that some of his ship owning friends had agreed to some kind of a compromise. That was the reason why the clause was found in the Bill. It had been provided that the marine board superintendents should in future be appointed by the Board of Trade. He hardly needed to explain why marine boards were brought into existence. They were instituted to see that justice was done to sailors and firemen, and he was quite willing that that should be done upon all occasions. He would like to ask why had this clause made its appearance in the Bill? Two or three months ago an order was issued by the Board of Trade to the mercantile marine boards to allow a friend to be admitted with a sailor when he was paid off. This created a dispute between ship owners and sailors which never would have existed if those so-called friends had not been called in. As far as he was aware there had been in the past satisfaction with everything that had been done by these superintendents, but unfortunately, at the instigation of so-called representatives of sailors and firemen, the Board of Trade issued this order to allow a friend to be called in. The result was that practically all the marine boards declined to carry out the order. What was the use of marine boards at all if men were introduced in order to prevent them acting fairly between sailors and ship owners? The consequence was that the Board of 1044 Trade gave notice of this clause and threatened that, unless the ship owners accepted it, probably the mercantile marine boards would be done away with altogether. As a matter of fact, notice of an Amendment to that effect was given by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough. He was sorry the snip-owners had not agreed to do away with the marine boards altogether, because they would be no use whatever if they were under the thumb of the Board of Trade. Every man on board a steamer who thought he had a grievance would enlarge it and acting, with his so-called friends, the marine boards would be gradually undermined. He had been led to believe and fear that a clause of this description would ultimately lead to accidents and possibly to a large loss of life. He thought every hon. Member must see that instead of this Bill being a great advantage to the ship owners of the country, it would be a disadvantage if what was now proposed was accepted as a final settlement of the question.
§ MR. MACLEAN (Bath)
thought there was a danger of the introduction of a so-called "sailors friend" leading to the sailor's own disadvantage. The man who got hold of the sailor might be someone outside the proper official of the trade union; he might be something in the nature of a "crimp." He particularly desired to draw attention to what he considered was a somewhat grave omission from the Bill, and that was the absence of any provision for bettering the system of apprenticeship of the officers for the mercantile marine. Although there had been a great increase in the tonnage of British shipping it had been accompanied by a decrease in the number of British sailors employed. He thought in this matter they should start at the right end and begin with the boys. The present system was absolutely chaotic. They could not adopt the German system because it was so nearly related to the Navy. His opinion was that it would be impossible to get boys from respectable middle class homes, with such education as was necessary for those who went in for this profession, unless some means could be found of providing them with more suitable accommodations on board 1045 ship. He remembered an old captain telling him that he had four sons wild to go to sea, but he was afraid to let them go on account of the conditions prevailing on many of the ships. They all knew the mixture of nationalities and the general surroundings on board had now made a ship absolutely an improper place for young lads. This was really a national question. He did not think the argument that shipowners should bear the whole cost of training their own officers would hold for a moment when they considered the enormous amount of money spent by the nation annually in technical training. Enormous sums were taken from the rates and taxes for training in all kinds of British handicrafts, and what greater interest was there than that of the British mercantile marine? Yet the nation practically contributed nothing at all for the training of the officers and men who took part in that important industry. He hoped the President of the Board of Trade would, in the years of office that lay before him, attend to this matter, because it was one which was worthy of his best and highest attention.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
said he looked upon the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Stockton as largely in the nature of stage thunder. The hon. Baronet had said that shipowners were against this Bill. He ventured to say that shipowners had a good deal to be thankful for in this Bill, because if the seamen had anything to complain of at all it was that the shipowners had the best of the bargain with the President of the Board of Trade. The seamen took up an altogether different attitude to the Bill from that of the shipowners. They were always thankful for small concessions, and he thanked his right, hon. friend for the small concessions they had received in this Bill. They had obtained, for instance, a statutory food scale. It was a long way short of what he wanted and of what they ought to have, because the Departmental Committee presided over by the late Lord St. Helier recommended a much more liberal scale than that in the Bill. Still, it was a step in the right direction, and it would prevent men from being starved, as many of them 1046 had been on board ship. They were also thankful for the small concession they had got with regard to the employment of alien seamen, but he held that their employment on board British ships should conform to our standard, and they should be competent seamen in every way. The Bill provided that they must speak and understand the English language, and certainly that would be a safeguard. It would be some protection of the lives of the people employed on board our ships. The provision might have been extended to all the ports in the world, because it was just as dangerous to take on board at New York a crew of foreigners who could not speak English as at Rotterdam, Hamburg, or a Danish port. Still they had to consider the shipowners in the matter, and when they stated that they might be put to the expense of sending a crew to New York then, as reasonable men, the sailors took a reasonable view of the matter, and accepted the small instalment of what they would like to have. He was thankful also for the clause for the inspection of a ship's provisions. It was now over thirteen years since a law was passed providing for the inspection of provisions in ships going round Cape Horn. He had known cases where inspectors had condemned the food on board ships as being unfit for use, and the same food was afterwards placed on vessels going to the Black Sea and to Mediterranean ports. The clause which provided for the general supervision of provisions in ships in all trades was a step in the right direction, and he was thankful to his right hon. friend for it. With regard to forecastle accommodation he was afraid he could not congratulate his right hon. friend to the same extent. Although the seamen were to have 120 cubic feet of space, the washhouses or bathrooms were to be taken out of it. He thought they ought to have had 120 cubic feet for sleeping, and that the space for washhouses or bathrooms should have been extra. He was also disappointed that lascars were not placed on the same level as British seamen with regard to space. In the course of time it would be quite possible to drive British seamen entirely out of British ships by lascar labour.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said his right hon. friend shook his head in regard to that point. He remembered the time, not many years ago, when lascars could not be employed beyond 38 degrees latitude. He knew of a case now where they were employed crossing the Atlantic to New York. He recently heard of a case where a ship was manned by a Chinese crew employed in the iron ore trade to Bilbao. He should have liked his right hon. friend to go as far as he had asked him, and to provide in the Bill that the Chinese and lascars, if employed on British ships, should have the same conditions as Britishers. He did not mean the same kind of food, for his right hon. friend would know that lascars did not eat the same class of food as Britishers, but there was no reason why lascars should be starved. He would have liked the President of the Board of Trade to take power under this Bill to inquire into the kind and quantity of food which lascars were given. He hoped his right hon. friend would take into consideration the necessity of providing a proper food scale for lascars, and seeing that they were not unfairly dealt with. British seamen did not fear competition from lascars or foreigners. The hon. Member for Stockton had performed a sort of war dance in referring to the local marine boards and the clause with reference to the taking over of the power of appointing superintendents. The hon. Baronet said that the only reason for this was that the President of the Board of Trade wanted to make provision for a seaman taking into the shipping office a friend to assist him. He himself was one of the sea lawyers, and he might tell the hon. Baronet that for ten years his intervention at the mercantile marine offices in "Well Street, London, had resulted in a saving to the seamen of not less than £1,000 a year. Instead of increasing litigation his action had had the opposite effect. The local marine board in Well Street had always recognised the principle of allowing a seaman to take a friend in to put his case before the superintendent and the master. Only yesterday he was called in in a case where a number of seamen 1048 were making a most extravagant demand for breach of contract. They had "signed on" a ship and they supposed that they were bound on a two years voyage, but at the end of six weeks they were discharged at Alexandria and sent on to London. At the marine board offices they were claiming twelve months compensation for breach of contract. He had an interview with these men and he put them in a more reasonable frame of mind. That was where a friend could be of some service, not only to seamen, but to shipowners. He was certain that the friendly advice that had very often been given to seamen at the marine board offices had prevented a good deal of litigation. Why should not seamen have the right to have some one to represent them? Instead of interfering with discipline on board ship it had just the opposite effect. He believed that if an injustice was done to seamen it would incline them to be more unruly and to create a disturbance. If a seaman got justice he was like everybody else—he was satisfied. As to the clause in the Bill in regard to deck loads, he would make an appeal to his right hon. friend. He was not satisfied with it, and he felt that there were a good many like himself who did not like the alteration. He had made inquiries of shipowners and others since the debate on Friday last; and he could not find any shipowner who had asked for the change. Who was it that was demanding this alteration? The right hon. Gentleman was good enough on Friday to make some concessions by adding words to the clause providing for the better protection of seamen on ships with deck loads. He would suggest that a further concession might he made. He was inclined to agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that on well-deck ships, timber might be loaded up to the top of the bulwarks, and that proper safeguards should be put up for the protection of the seamen. But he was seriously opposed to flush deck vessels, which only tad a rail for bulwarks, carrying seven feet of timber. He would suggest that these flush deck vessels should only be allowed to carry a deck load of three feet He would give a very good reason for that. On flush-deck vessels there was 1049 only a rail, and the cargo had to be secured by chains running through ringbolts in the deck. Three feet of timber might be secured on deck with safety in that manner; but when they came to increase the deck cargo to seven feet, then too great a strain would be put on the ring-bolts, and if strong gales were encountered in the winter time and heavy seas were breaking on board, the ring-bolts would give way, the whole deck cargo go overboard and the ship become practically a wreck. He thought that the right hon. the President of the Board of Trade should, when the Bill went to another place, have an Amendment introduced allowing well-deck ships to carry cargo up to the level of the bulwarks, and flush-deck ships only to carry three feet of deck cargo. Personally he did not believe in deck loads at all. The decks of ships were intended for the crew to do their work, and when a gale was blowing and heavy seas were breaking over the vessel, a deck load was not safe. Why should not the timber, instead of being piled up on the decks of ships, be built in huge rafts which could be towed? He believed, however, that that was tried as an experiment on the American coast, but it was found that in rough weather the rafts went to pieces and eventually the experiment was given up as an unprofitable job. He fully recognised the fact of foreign competition. Foreigners very often carried unrestricted deck loads; but that might be dealt with by international arrangement. The President of the Board of Trade might approach foreign Governments on the matter of making a universal restriction of deck loads. He could say that in consequence of regulations passed by the House of Commons and enforced by the Board of Trade, there had been a very marked change in the measures taken for the safety of seamen. In the year 1884–5 3,200 men were lost, killed, or drowned on board British ships. The loss was now less than 1,400, due, in his opinion, to the splendid regulations to which he had referred. The fact was, however, that while the loss of life on or from British ships had been steadily; decreasing, the loss on foreign ships had been steadily increasing. The state of 1050 affairs on board Swedish and Norwegian ships was terrible. He thought it would be for the benefit of shipowners if further legislation were passed to secure additional safety to seamen on shipboard, especially in view of the probable extension of the Workmen's Compensation Act to seamen. In regard to repatriation of British seamen changes had been made in the Bill which he could not understand. In Sub-section 12, page 16, it was stated that—This sub-Section shall not apply in the case of an absent seaman.He thought that if a man deserted a ship, or through misfortune failed to join his ship before it left a foreign port, that man was an "absent seaman."
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that his hon. friend should read on further. The next words in the sub-section were—This subsection shall not apply to absent seamen in cases of (a), (b), (c) and (d).
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said he had read the whole sub-section but it did not seem to him clear. An "absent seaman" was a man who was absent from his ship for any cause.. Then in Clause 32 it was provided that where the services of a seaman belonging to a British ship terminated at a foreign port, the master of the ship should provide for his being sent home at the expense of the ship. He asked the President of the Board of Trade why such a provision was not made in the case of a seaman discharged in a port in His Majesty's dominions abroad. Take the case of a man who had signed an agreement for two years, but at the end of the two years instead of the ship being in a port of the United Kingdom, she was at Hong Kong. Why should not that man be sent home at the expense of the owner, as he would be if the voyage had terminated at a foreign port? He wished that the right hon. Gentleman had been able to put into the Bill a provision for certificates being issued to firemen and shipwrights, and he hoped that he might be able to make that provision in another Bill next year. He knew that some hon. Gentlemen had said that when this Shipping Bill was passed they did not want any more 1051 shipping legislation for the next 100 years. He hoped, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would say that this Bill was only a small instalment of reform. A Committee sat some years ago on the manning of ships; and he thought it was the duty of Parliament to take notice of the Report of that Committee and the recommendations they made in regard to firemen's certificates and the introduction of a scale for the manning of ships. He trusted that next year, when the right hon Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade settled down to his work, he might find time to bring forward measures dealing with the recommendations of that and other Committees on the shipping interest. He recognised that the right hon. Gentleman had had a great task indeed in piloting n. Bill of this kind through the House of Commons; and that he had done so with tact and skill. It had been said that the shipowners had not been consulted on the matter, but he knew that they and the Shipowners' Society had been consulted at every stage. Of course every gentleman connected with the shipping industry could not expect to be consulted. A great deal had been accomplished by the conferences which had taken place from time to time. He congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on the excellent work that had been done in the Bill, and he said that as one who wanted a lot of satisfying. He trusted that next year they could look forward to legislation which would deal with many other points which had been left open. He supported the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
said he agreed with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough that in respect to this Bill one had to be thankful for small mercies. After listening to the speech of the hon. Member he felt chastened, and realised that things might have been very much worst than they were. The hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool, who moved the rejection of the Bill, in the course of his speech had made a most gratuitous imputation upon his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade in saying that the right 1052 hon. Gentleman had consulted certain shipowners who were of the same political complexion as himself. It was true that in a later part of his speech the hon. Member had to some extent atoned for that expression of opinion, but he might say in reply to the whole speech of the hon. Member that if cupidity was the vice of shipowners on that side of the House, lucidity was not the vice of shipowners on the other. On what did the hon. Member base his opposition to the measure? He admitted that it was a Bill which, from his point of view, was worthy of support, except in one particular point, and that was the gravamen of his charge against the Bill, that it failed to go as far as he desired it to go, because it did not place foreign ships in British ports on the same basis as British ships, and that the Bill did not apply to foreign ships to the same extent as it did to British ships. In his opinion, however, if the House looked upon the Bill as a whole and considered the variety of interests involved and the various matters of administration which it covered, he thought it was an extraordinary thing that a shipowner on either side of the House should come forward and move the rejection of the Bill on the ground that it did not go far enough. He had very little sympathy with the views put forward by the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool or the hon. Member for Stockton, and he could not consider that they in any way justified their moving the rejection of the Bill. It seemed to him that the hon. Gentlemen were acting like a man who re-fused to eat his Christmas pudding because it lacked the spoonful of brandy which he desired. He was one of those who went into the lobby, not with a view of getting foreign vessels penalised, but in favour of putting them on the same footing in regard to the load-line as English vessels, by making them conform at the port of origin with the requirements of British law. He thought it was a perfectly futile proceeding now on the Third Reading to come forward and say that, because a particular portion of the Bill relating to the safety of foreign vessels 1053 was not carried so far as the shipowners would like, that was a reason for moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has several times stated that there is a Motion for the rejection of the Bill. That has not been made. There is no such Motion.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
apologised, and said he thought the hon. Member moved that the Bill should be read that day three months.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
said that in that case he understood there was no Amendment before the House, but he would like to say, on behalf of a considerable section of shipowners, that they did not regard the application of the regulations for the safety of foreign vessels as a very great concession to the shipowning interest in this country. He had no idea of giving any artificial protection to foreigners, but the regulations which had been applied were applied from the point of view of safety and with the object of avoiding loss of life and raising the standard of safety throughout the country. He had never understood that this reform was initiated with a desire to benefit British ships or penalise foreign ships, but it was desirable that the same regulations should be applied to foreign as to British ships. He did not think that the regulations as applied to foreign vessels were in any sense a concession to the shipowners of this country, but he regarded it as part of an international policy for enforcing a system of safety, not only for British vessels, but for foreign vessels in British ports. He had never thought it a hardship that foreign vessels should obey the rules as to the load line, or that they should be required to conform to our regulations as regards passengers. On the contrary, he thought the more we taught them to raise their standard as regards loading, safety, and general equipment the more efficient we should find them. He had never felt that the shipowners were under a great debt of gratitude to His Majesty's Government, but what 1054 shipowners were thankful for was that the right hon. Gentleman had found desirable to consult not only with the shipowners, but with every interest concerned, with the result that a Bill had been framed which was less prejudicial to the complicated interests of the shipping trade than any shipping Bill which had come before the House of Commons. If the right hon. Gentleman had pursued the same policy in administration, some difficulties which had arisen might have been more or less solved. The provisions in favour of seamen deprived hon. Members of any pretext for calling it a shipowners' Bill, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to congratulation from all quarters on the scheme by means of which he had reconciled conflicting interests, while it was admitted that the measure had not received from the shipowners anything like a factious or gratuitous opposition. The Bill was not a shipowners' Bill, but a Bill for the improvement of the conditions of employment at sea, and for generally regulating and facilitating the management of British ships. There were a number of small details very important to the shipping interest which the Bill had converted into law, and though he felt that the shipping interest had not benefited so much as other interests, he also felt that things might have been much worse. Many most threatening and dangerous experiments which a great many well meaning people on both sides of the House were desirous of of trying on the shipping interest had not been incorporated in the Bill, and shipowners on the whole were of opinion that matters might have been very much worse. It was better to have the devil they knew than the devil they did not know, and whatever might be shadowed forth by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough as to the years to come he might put it that their pious aspiration was that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
§ MR. BONAR LAW (Camberwell, Dulwich)
said he had never concealed the fact that upon the whole he thought this Bill was a good one, and in every one of its stages he had done his best to help it through the House. It would indeed have been strange if one had taken a 1055 different course, because the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would agree that it would have been a difficult matter to have carried through this Bill except for the fact that he had the assistance of the Reports of three Committees appointed by the late Government to consider this question. That, however, did not detract from the skill with which the right hon: Gentleman had conducted the Bill through the House. It was one thing to have the materials and another to make use of them in, the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had. He believed most emphatically that the shipping trade as a whole had reason to be grateful that the right hon. Gentleman had felt himself at liberty to deal at once with the subject. He did not think, however, that it was so good a Bill as it might have been made, and there were three subjects in connection with it upon which he might say a word. The first was that alluded by the hon. Member for the Kirkdale division. It was, he thought, a great mistake not to have put foreign ships in the same position as British ships trading with British ports. That subject was dealt with at great length in the Committee stage, and he did not think there was any reason now why it should not be done. It had been suggested that the Bill should be dropped altogether on that ground, but that was a very strong step. But it was one of the blemishes on the Bill, and he hoped that it would be removed before the Bill received the Royal Assent. He appreciated the ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman objected to place British and foreign ships upon an equality in this matter, the danger of foreign complications arising, but he could not help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman found the Peers, who had the same opportunity to consider this point as the right hon. Gentleman took the view that that alarm was without foundation, he would accept an Amendment which would put all ships trading in our ports on an exact equality. The representatives of the marine boards, having acquiesced in the course which the right hon. Gentleman had taken with regard to those bodies was a good reason why he should not urge the House to take a different view, but he 1056 thought the right hon. Gentleman had taken a disastrous step. The hon. Member for Bath had put the case in a way that should commend itself to the House. A Circular was issued saying that only seamen and their representatives should be allowed to enter the rooms of the local marine boards; then that Circular was withdrawn and another issued, which said that a seaman and his next friend, whoever it might be, should be allowed to go in. They all knew that the the next friend of the seaman was the crimp, and it would be a case of competition between the crimp and the representatives of the Seamen's and Firemen's Union. What the right hon. Gentleman had done, in effect, was to allow that swarm of land sharks which was to be found outside every marine board Office in the country, and which it had been the endeavour to keep outside the offices, for the first time to get inside the office and obtain a greater power over their victims. He believed, however, that if the right hon. Gentleman found that the evil existed he would not hesitate to withdraw the Circular which allowed it. All he had to say with regard to tonnage measurements was that on Clause 55 the question was discussed at some length, but only from one point of view. It was a pity that the other point of view was not touched, but as he was a party to the bargain which had been made he was not able to deal with it. He did not wish to go fully into the subject now, but he was convinced, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would not think he was saying this offensively, that the right hon. Gentleman had not grasped and tackled the problem. It was an important and complicated question, and his suggestion was that the right hon. Gentleman should not commit himself on the subject until he felt that he understood the arguments on both sides. It was said that the President of the Board of Trade had promised to support a particular proposal when the matter came back to this House. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that to make such a promise or do anything in that direction would be a mistake. The subject should be dealt with as a whole. With regard to the measurements of ships, it was suggested on Report that only the 1057 registered measurements should be taken into account for the dues. That was not a question between shipowners and dock owners; it was a question between owners of different classes of ships. Before the Committee upstairs owner after owner declared himself in favour of the change recommended by the hon. Member below the Gangway. He himself put to one shipowner the question, "Can you bring a witness to bear out what you say?" and that gentleman could not do so. But the question got into the papers next day, and he received a letter from the Chamber of Shipping strongly deprecating the proposal put before the Committee and asking him to recommend that such a change should not be made. Under these circumstances the right hon. Gentleman would feel that he ought not to deal hastily and, above all, without making sure that the class most interested in this question, the shipowners, desired it. He believed this Bill was, on the whole, fair to the shipowners and to the men, and that it would never have been carried through the House if the right hon. Gentleman had not had regard to, and constantly consulted, those whose interests would be most affected.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he desired to thank the hon. Member for Dulwich for the very kind way in which he had referred to the part which he (Mr. Lloyd-George) had taken in getting this Bill through the House. He also took the opportunity of stating that he had been treated throughout the passage of the Bill with exemplary fairness by all who opposed it. If it had not been for that it would probably have been impossible for him to have got the Bill through this session, certainly not without overloading the Parliamentary ship, which was pretty well submerged already. He further acknowledged that it would not have been possible, but for the labours of the Committees appointed by his predecessors, Mr. Ritchie, Mr. Gerald Balfour, and the hon. Member for Dulwich. The material collected by those Committees had been of great value in the preparation of the Bill, and he had incorporated most, if not all, the suggestions made by those various Committees. The shipowners, although they had criticised various 1058 parts of the Bill, had, on the whole, behaved with great fairness and even liberality. They had increased the food scale for the sailor. They had made his accommodation better. Several concessions had been made for the improvement of the sailor's condition generally, with regard to allotment notes, to his treatment when distressed, and when ill abroad; and he had not had a single protest from any shipowners' association with regard to any of these concessions. That was why he very much regretted one or two speeches which had been delivered to-day. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stockton had suggested that if the shipowners had known they were not going to get a certain concession with regard to load-line, they would have opposed the Bill from the start, and would have resisted all these concessions to the sailor. He was very glad to believe there was no foundation for that suggestion. The shipowners, he thought, knew perfectly well what the Rill was. They received copies of it, and discussed every line of it. They had never protested against any of these concessions. The hon. Baronet the Member for Stockton said, "We were completely misled." He would like to ask when were shipowners misled. The hon. Baronet was one of those who had a copy of the Bill before it was introduced, and who know what its provisions were, and he heard it explained in the House. Let it be assumed that the explanation he gave was not particularly lucid; even so, the hon. Baronet had the provisions before him, and knew exactly what was proposed, so that he was the last man in the House who should complain about being misled.
§ SIR ROBERT ROPNER
asked if he might explain that the Committee upstairs carried the provision that individual vessels coming from foreign ports should be loaded the same as British vessels —that foreign vessels should be in the same condition as British. That was carried, and he was under the impression that it would be in the Bill. Consequently he had a perfect right to say he was, at any rate, under a wrong impression, if not misled.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said there was the First Reading and the Second Reading, 1059 when the provision in the Bill was exactly as it was at the present moment. The hon. Baronet knew perfectly well what that provision was, and had no right at all to complain of being misled. The hon. Member for Dulwich had complained that the Government had not put foreign ships in exactly the same position as British ships. He, however, still maintained they had taken the right line with regard to that. We had no right to prosecute foreigners for breaches of the law outside British jurisdiction. If they had committed an offence in Spain or some other foreign country, it was rather a strong order for us to proceed with a prosecution for what they did there; but when they came within British territorial waters they were no more exempt from prosecution for an offence than British ships. That was a conceivable principle. He was sorry to hear the hon. Member suggest that possibly there might be an alteration before the Bill received the Royal Assent in the direction of making a foreign ship liable to prosecution for an offence committed outside our jurisdiction. He thought it was a very dangerous principle, and might lead to complications.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that that very thing was done in the Bill at present. It made ships bringing grain responsible not only for the condition in which they arrived in England, but for the condition in which they left a foreign port. That was an offence committed outside our jurisdiction.
§ MR. LLOYD GEORGE
said he had already pointed out that that was a totally different question, for the simple reason that if grain was loaded, say, at a Canadian port under certain conditions, they could not put that ship into a condition conformable with our law when it arrived here They could not throw 300 or 400 tons of grain overboard during the voyage. But the case which the hon. Gentleman dealt with was a totally different thing. It was the case of a ship which, although when it arrived here, it complied with our regulation, left the foreign port in a condition contrary to our law. That was a totally different case. The breach of the law in the first case continued up to the point when the ship reached our port. We punished it, not for an offence in the North 1060 Atlantic, but for the offence of reaching our port in a condition which was an infringement of the provisions of the law. The provision had been inserted for the protection of human life.
§ MR. BON AR LAW
said the distinction drawn was not a distinction between offences, but as to the ease of proving the offences.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the hon. Gentleman was absolutely wrong. In order to illustrate the matter the hon. Gentleman gave the case of a ship leaving a Canadian port in a particular condition which would be an infringement of our law in regard to the load-line, and to the conditions relating to cargoes; it then went to Hamburg and discharged part of the grain cargo there, so as to be in a condition which would enable it to come to our ports. Then the hon. Gentleman suggested that we should prosecute.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the hon. Member was perfectly wrong. He consulted the law officers at the time, and they told him no prosecution would lie in that case. Therefore, there was absolutely nothing in that. Let him take the point in regard to the Circular issued to local marine boards. He was not defending that at present, because he did not consider it relevant to the discussion. When the Board of Trace Vote came on it might be debated. But since the matter had been referred to, he was bound to make a few observations. He was asked that when a sailor had a dispute with the master or owner of a ship with regard to wages, or other matters, which came before the superintendents, he should allow him to call in a friend, even though that friend happened to be a member of the Seamen's Union. He thought it was a perfectly fair thing to do. He would tell the House the reason. When the sailor came to the local marine office, what were the circumstances? He was there confronted by the man who had been commanding him all through the voyage, a trained man, a man who must be a man of great strength and force of character and intelligence, otherwise he would never have 1061 reached the position. Masters were not made merely by favouritism, they were all trained, skilled men. They were men who were in the habit of dealing with accounts. The poor sailor was no match for a man of that kind when he came before the superintendent. This was not all. The master could call in to his aid a trained man; he did, as a matter of fact, take with him the shipbroker or the shipbroker's clerk, a man trained to deal with accounts. Was the sailor a match in looking into accounts with the master assisted by the shipbroker and the ship-broker's agent? He was not, and he did not think it was unfair that if the sailor felt he really could not present his case fairly, he should be allowed to have somebody to go along with him in order to assist him in doing so. The hon. Member had overlooked the fact that this was not an experiment which was being made for the first time. His hon. friend behind him would not have spoken as he had if he had any knowledge of the matter, because there were one or two ports, and certainly one, in which the experiment had been tried. It had been tried in the Port of London. He put the question at the deputation of local marine boards to the representative of the local marine board for London whether they did not allow the sailor to call in friends. The answer was that they allowed it in every case. He asked whether any inconvenience had arisen, and the reply was that up to the present there had been no inconvenience. The experiment had been tried for fifteen years in the greatest port in the world, and it had been a success. They had not had sea lawyers and sharks—he forgot by what other names Seamon's union representatives had been called. But he would say this to the hon. Member and those who had some misgiving on the point. If they found any of these evils resulted— he did not expect them— there would be a case for reconsideration. He was, however, perfectly convinced that the thing would work out smoothly in other ports as it had done already in the Port of London. He was rather surprised to hear hon. Members support the action of the local marine boards in defying instructions. He was very glad the hon. Member opposite did not do so. It would be perfectly impossible to carry on any 1062 adminstration if that were allowed, and the course which had been adopted, even though the Circular were not the right kind of Circular, at any rate made the Amendment which he had introduced absolutely inevitable if the local marine boards were to be kept as part of the administration of the merchant shipping of the country. With regard to tonnage he had nothing to add. He had already said the question of tonnage ought not to be introduced into this Bill. The only promise he would make to his hon. friend was that if Bills were introduced—and they understood Bills would be introduced by the dock companies for the purpose of redressing grievances, and he considered them to be real grievances—as far as he was concerned, he would support the reference of those Bills to a Committee of the Whole House. He did not think he ought to go beyond that. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough had put to him a few questions with regard to some points in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman had tried to draw a distinction between ships with a well-deck and flush deck ships. He was advised there was no real difference. With regard to the protection of life there was more danger to human life in the flush deck vessels, and the Committee, when they came to consider the regulations, should take more detailed and more careful precautions for the protection of human life. That was a question which he hoped would be borne in mind. With regard to timber, his hon. friend had rather exaggerated the danger. He knew that British ships at the present moment carried timber on deck under the very conditions incorporated in this clause. What they really did was to do their winter timber trade to the Continent. They brought timber during the winter, and they arranged that all timber for the Continent should be on deck, and all timber for British ports should be under cover. The best thing for the protection of the sailors was that they should regulate that traffic as was proposed. Already as a result of the debate which took place last Friday there had been an improvement. They were introducing regulations for the protection of life, and that was a better system than the irregular one which new existed. His hon. friend the Member for Bath had 1063 asked a question about apprentices, and he agreed that that was a very important matter. If they desired" to have the British mercantile marine manned to any large extent by British sailors in the future, it could only be by resuscitating the old system of apprenticeship. Two months ago he appointed a Committee composed very largely of shipowners, and they were going into this matter. They were considering how they could best re-introduce a better system of apprenticeship. He did not know what their Report would be, but they were going into the matter very carefully and zealously, and he hoped as a result of their deliberations the House would be able to do something to improve the present proportion of British to foreign sailors in the mercantile marine. With regard to Indian legislation upon the subject of lascars, he had already brought before the notice of the Secretary of State for India the representations made by the Committee upstairs, and he believed that his right hon. friend had sent the matter over to India for further investigation. Up to the present nothing had reached him as to the result of those investigations by the India Office.
§ * MR. HAVELOCK WILSON
said he meant with regard to lascars engaged in the ports of the United Kingdom, and not in India.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said they were practically part of the same service. He knew they were ominally engaged here, but they were practically engaged in Indian ports, nd the ma te must remain one for the Indian Council to deal with. At any rate, that had always been the practice in the past, and he did not see any reason to depart from it. He did not know whether there was any other point-to which he ought to refer. He desired to thank hon. Members and those outside who had assisted him in framing the Bill. He desired to thank particularly the hon. Member for the East Toxteth Division of Liverpool, whose services had been very helpful, and the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, who had been very moderate in his demands. He thought the shipowners on the Committee were fully prepared to acknowledge that. 1064 With regard to those outside the House who had assisted him so much, he would like to mention Mr. Norman Hill, the representative of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, for very few men understood merchant shipping better than he did. Mr. Hill had sat upon many sub-committees, and he felt that he must acknowledge publicly his valuable services. He had also found the Bill introduced on this subject by the Secretary to the Local Government Board, which was endorsed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Stockton, very useful. He was only sorry that the hon. Baronet thought so badly of the present Bill, because several clauses from ' his hon. friend's measure had been incorporated in this Bill. He did not think there was anything else he could usefully add. Several concessions had been made to shipowners, and to seamen as well, but what satisfied him most of all was that all these concessions had been carried by the mutual goodwill of all sections of the British shipping community.
§ * MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
said he was very glad to be able to take an active part in the discussion on this Bill. He agreed that it embodied valuable concessions as regarded British shipping, and he thought it was a measure which went very far to satisfy all sides. It was much to the credit of the President of the Board of Trade that he had succeeded in bringing together the various interests of shipowners, seamen, dock-owners, pilots, and those engaged in British trade generally, and in the main the result was one upon which the House could look with satisfaction. There were several broad principles which appeared to underlie the Bill itself. First of all there was the principle of safety to human life, and this was paid attention to by the provision that foreign ships should be treated in British ports exactly in the same way as British ships. On this point he regretted that the President of the Board of Trade was unable to see his way to extend the operation of those regulations to foreign ships which overloaded with coal in foreign ports. He hoped that on further consideration he might see his way to alter his policy in this direction 1065 in the near future. Of course, the responsibility must lie with the right hon. Gentleman. He thought it was quite possible that with an audacious policy of endeavouring to treat foreign ships bound for this country the same as British ships, they might do something in the way of bringing foreign nations to realise the value of the British regulations. The right hon. Gentleman had determined, in spite of the decision of the Grand Committee upstairs, that that was not the proper policy at the present time, and with the crack of the Party whip he had upset their decision. He was sure that what the right hon. Gentleman desired to do was to bring foreign nations to see eye to eye with ourselves as regarded the safety of human life, and if an international load line could be obtained by that or any other means he himself would be perfectly satisfied with the result in the long run. There was another principle which seemed to underlie this Bill, and that was a desire to secure freedom of the shipping trade from restrictions which would handicap them as against the trade of foreign nations. That principle was embodied in the provision applying our load line regulations to foreign ships. It was a principle which incidentally secured them fair foreign competition, and would rid them of unfair foreign competition. The principle was the basis of the whole policy of tariff reformers, and their one object was to avoid unfair foreign competition. Inesmuch as this principle underlay the provision made by the right non. Gentleman in this Bill, he might go so far as to say that he hoped some day he would be a convert to the policy of tariff reform. Another principle which he would like to hail with satisfaction was that of retaining British pilots for British ships. This was a question which had agitated the shipping world and the pilot world for some years past, but it had never been taken any notice of until this year. He was exceedingly glad that the right hon. Gentleman, after careful consultation with his advisers, bad come to the conclusion that he could safely insert Clause 71, which dealt with this question. He had never been able to understand that in a matter of this kind there could be any reason for granting certificates to alien pilots, and 1066 not giving a preference to our OWD. Another principle that underlay the Bill to some extent—he only wished that it went further—was that British sailors should be provided so far as possible for British ships. He knew that it was a difficult matter to deal with. He was exceedingly interested to learn from the President of the Board of Trade that he had appointed a Committee to consider the whole question of British seamen for British ships. He hoped that it would have good results. The providing of British sailors would generally mean that more money would have to be expended one way or another on apprentices, and it did not at all appear clear that they would get any better results than they had now; but the subject deserved inquiry. He did not think that the effort to get British sailors for British ships would be advanced by excluding lascars. The House could not get over the fundamental fact that lascars were British citizens. The discouragement or prohibition of them on board our ships would, he thought, seriously injure our trade in competition with that of foreign countries. If they were prohibited, German shipowners would have a chance of employing lascars under favourable circumstances. It appeared to him that, so far as some hon. Members were concerned, their object was really not so much to ensure the comfort of lascars as to prevent their employment on our ships at all. He did not think that would really be denied by the hon. Members who supported the Amendment on this question. That being so, he could only repeat that they were endeavouring to treat British citizens in a way which was not at all justifiable. If the Amendment had been passed, they would have seen the strange spectacle of British subjects being excluded from British ship. He was glad that the proposal was not embodied in the Bill. In regard to the local marine boards, it was difficult to say precisely how the new regulations would actually work. In some respects the legislation on that matter had been rather precipitate. If at the time the Board of Trade circular was issued this Bill had not been passing through the House there might have been a little less heat engendered, 1067 and negotiations might have been carried out which would have been more satisfactory to all concerned. He would have been glad if the President of the Board of Trade had seen his way to accept the clause dealing with the limitation of deductions for propelling space. The right hon. Gentleman had recommended that individual ports should bring up private Bills in order to increase the dock charges which they levied. He was not sure that that was a satisfactory conclusion, or even a wise one. Private Bills involved great expense, and he thought a great deal of expense would have been saved in the long run if the question had been dealt with in this Bill. If local ports were to be encouraged to come up with private Bills and to incur all the consequent expense, he thought that was hardly so statesmanlike a way of dealing with the question as the introduction of a clause in this Bill. Generally speaking, he had no hesitation in saying that this was a good Bill. It carried out the recommendations of various Committees appointed by the late Government. It brought much credit to the President of the Board of Trade and to his advisers in and out of the House, who had helped him in drawing up the measure, and he thought it would mark a sustantial step in advance in the history of the British mercantile marine.
§ MR. JENKINS (Chatham)
said he was glad that the President of the Board of Trade had adhered to one particular clause which it was said he was likely to withdraw. The right hon. Gentleman had emphasised his approval of that clause. He referred to the clause which permitted a seaman to bring into the local marine board offices, when a dispute arose between him and the captain, someone who was in a position to plead his case. He joined with other Members in congratulating the right hon. Gentleman upon the production of this Bill. At the same time he could not approve of deck cargoes at all. He strongly protested in the name of the British public and British seamen against deck cargoes. The deck of a ship was for the crew to perform their daily work and he was of opinion that deck cargoes were extremely dangerous. He was 1068 looking forward to the improvements which were to be made in flush-decks. Under present conditions deck cargoes on flush-decks were most dangerous to the seamen. As to the local marine boards, he did not think that their present constitution was altogether satisfactory, and he was glad that the President of the Board of Trade was removing the doubts from the minds of people as to the position occupied by members of these boards. In Cardiff there was already an understanding that the men could come before the shipping office and put their case through a representative. He exceedingly regretted that the recommendations of the Committee which sat in 1897, and whose work was of a very onerous character, had not been embodied in the Bill. He specially referred to the recommendations in regard to ship carpenters. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had said that the case for the ship carpenters at sea had not been made out. But he would briefly state a case which had been furnished to him. A ship with a valuable cargo of cotton lost her propeller when 300 miles from the home port, and was drifting about practically helpless. The captain asked the carpenter if he could devise a means by which the ship could be brought to land. The carpenter said he thought he could, and he rigged up an apparatus and connected it with the steam winch, which enabled the ship to reach port safely. Should not that carpenter be highly commended and rewarded for having not only saved a valuable ship and cargo, but also many valuable lives? He hop d the right hon. Gentleman would consider the advisability of considering the reasonable and modest request he had made that this question of sea-going carpenters should be dealt with in this or another measure.
§ * MR. STUART (Sunderland)
said he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would be more pleased to get the Third Reading of the Bill than to be praised for his own action. He, however, wished to associate himself with what had been said as to the care and courtesy with which the right hon. Gentleman had conducted the Bill through 1069 its various stages, and especially as to the admirable method which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced of inviting the expression of expert opinion outside as well as inside the House. There was one particular matter which touched many points of great importance, on which he wished to make a few remarks, viz., the question of borrowing money on ships. A ship was different from a house in that it could run away and escape from the mortgagee. He had introduced a clause which had been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman having for its object the improvement of the position of the mortgagee of a ship. It was obviously in the interests not only of the shipbuilder and of the shipowner, but of the sailor that the money employed in the shipping industry should be obtained at as low a rate of interest as possible. His clause, now 52 in the Bill, went to allow a ship to remain on the British register so far as the interest of the mortgagee was concerned so long as she was in a British port, although sold to a foreigner. So far a distinct advantage had been gained. But if the ship were in a foreign port the mortgagee was in the unfortunate position that the claim of the mortgagee was practically gone and at best only enforceable under foreign law. Those who advanced money on ships had to take the risk into consideration. This question had been brought before him by bankers, shipbuilders, shipowners, find others who had strongly urged him to submit it to the House of Commons. He asked the President of the Board of Trade to introduce a clause in the House of Lords that a ship should not be allowed to be transferred to a foreigner from the British register without the consent of the mortgagee.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. KEARLEY,) Devonport
thought the House would agree that the exhaustive reply of his right hon. friend had covered all the points raised in the course of the debate, and he appealed to hon. Members to allow the Third Reading of the Bill to be now taken as it was being waited for in another place.
§ * MR. BARRIE (Londonderry, N.)
said that a fuller consideration of the Bill than had been before possible had satisfied the shipping authorities with whom he had been in communication that on the whole the concessions made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade were acceptable. They were all agreed that the condition of seamen on board British ships should be improved, and that the men should be made more comfortable than they had been in the past. He was not altogether sure that the provision which lessened the term of apprenticeship would secure what was desired. He suggested that the giving of additional privileges to the able-bodied seaman on the one hand, and reducing the period of apprenticeship on the other was not calculated to attract in the future a better class of men to the mercantile marine, of which they were all proud. As to the loss of revenue to harbour authorities which had been alluded to, the whole difficulty which had arisen in recent years had been due to the complicated system of tonnage measurement adopted by Board of Trade officials. A reference had been made as to the preference given to foreign ships, and he thought British shipowners had reason to protest against it. They gave full credit to the President of the Board of Trade for the fair manner in which he had presented this Bill to the House, but he thought they might claim credit for the wholesale way in which he had adopted the recommendations of the Committees appointed by the late Government.
§ * MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
, said that he desired to say a few words, and only a few words, with regard to the effect of Clause 54 on the revenue of the Thames Conservancy and similar bodies whose income was mainly dependent on tonnage dues. He very much regretted that part of that income had been taken away by that clause without even a thought being bestowed upon them by the President of the Board of Trade or this House. As the clause stood before it was amended, he roughly calculated that the Thames Conservancy might lose £20,000 per annum, but as the clause 1071 had been amended, the loss would be about £2,000 per annum. Why the Conservancy should lose any he could not understand, as all their income went in support of the shipping industry, and in keeping the fairway clear to the shipowners. The President for the Board of Trade said he had to give the shipowners something because he had taken something away from them. It was easy to be generous with other people's money, but it was not a particularly virtuous action. The nett registered tonnage as calculated for the Thames was less than one half the actual tonnage. He hoped that before long such an anomaly would be put an end to, and that they would have the assistance of the Government in amending the existing law at an early date.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.