HC Deb 07 May 1907 vol 174 cc52-3
MR. J. DEVLIN (Belfast, W.)

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the question of tonnage has recently been thoroughly investigated by several Committees and a Commission at great cost to the shipping interests involved; and that, in the case of the Merchant Shipping Bill, the cross-Channel companies are agreed m opposing counsel being heard at the Committee Stage because of the cost which it would involve; whether he is aware that in the case of harbour authorities the cost of counsel is defrayed by the port; and whether, in view of these circumstances, he will undertake to advise that counsel should not be heard at the Committee Stage of the Bill.


To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether, in connection with the proposed Bill to amend Section 78 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, he has considered the question of exempting from its operation cross-Channel steamers at present in commission, a number of which, at present engaged in traffic between Irish and English ports, being of a new type and constructed quite recently under Board of Trade supervision, affording increased facilities and comfort to the travelling public, and built at an increased cost, in good faith that the additional expenditure would not be saddled with an extra tax, and seeing that these cross-Channel steamers are already handicapped with legislation and competition, he has considered that these steamers use ports that they run to daily and are liable for dues each time, whereas other classes of steamers can stay in port for days or weeks and only pay the same amount in duties that the cross-Channel steamers do every day; whether he is aware that the regular cross-Channel steamers pay from six to twelve times heavier dues to the port authorities than other classes of steamers, and that at Belfast the cross-Channel steamers contribute the major portion of the revenue of the port while occupying a small portion of the quays; and whether, in view of all these circumstances, he will undertake that the provisions of the new Bill will apply only to such steamers as are built in the future, and not to those at present in commission, or otherwise consider the advisability of altering the term sixty to sixty-five in the new Bill.

(Answered by Mr. Lloyd-George.) I will reply together to the two Question the hon. Member has on the Paper. I am quite aware of the circumstances to which he calls attention, and I have had a conference with the representatives of the several interests concerned in the Government Tonnage Bill now before this House, which has resulted in what I hope may prove a satisfactory (although not quite unanimous) compromise. The terms of this agreement will appear in Amendments which I propose to put on the Paper, and which I think will be found to go far towards meeting the points raised by the hon. Member.