§ No port rates shall be charged by the Authority on transhipment goods which expression wherever used in this Order means and includes goods imported for transhipment only and also goods which remain on board the vessel in which they were imported for conveyance therein to another port.
§ For the purposes of this Section the expression "goods imported for transhipment only" shall mean goods imported from beyond the seas or coastwise for the purpose of being conveyed by sea only to any other port whether beyond the seas or coastwise which are certified and proved within the period and in the manner hereinafter provided (1) to have been intended for transhipment at or before the time of the report of the ship at the Custom House of within seventy-two hours thereafter excluding Sundays and holidays and (2) to have been shipped again as soon as practicable within the limits of the Port of London for conveyance by sea to such other port. Every such certificate as aforesaid shall be under the hand of the owner of the goods (which expression whenever used in this Order shall include the shipper and consignee of the goods and any person shipping or taking delivery of the goods on behalf of the owner shipper or consignee) or under the hand of a forwarding agent or of any other agent acting on behalf of the owner of the goods or under the hand of the owner master managers or agents of the importing or exporting vessel and shall be in such form as the Authority may from time to time require. The certificate stating that the goods have been intended for transhipment shall contain particulars of the description quantity destination route and mode of conveyance of such goods and shall be delivered to the collector (which expression as used in this Order means any collector or officer for the time being authorised by the Authority to collect port rates on goods) within seven days from the arrival of the goods or such further period as shall from time to time be appointed by the Authority. The certificate stating that the goods have been shipped again as soon as practicable as aforesaid shall contain such particulars as the Authority shall require and shall be delivered to the collector at or immediately after the time of shipment. The owner of any such goods as aforesaid shall at all times give such other information and evidence as may reasonably be required 958 by the Authority or their agent, in order to prove that such goods were intended for transhipment or have been shipped again as soon as practicable as aforesaid as the case may be.
§ Mr. GEORGE THORNE
had two Amendments on the Paper—first, to leave out the words "or coastwise" ["from beyond the seas or coastwise"], and second, at the end of the paragraph, to add the words: "Provided that goods imported coastwise for transhipment shall be exempt from port rates chargeable on goods imported."
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The next two Amendments standing in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. George Thorne) appear to be contrary to Clause 13, Section 1, paragraph 3, in the Act of 1908, which requires that all goods imported for transhipment should be exempt. As the Amendments would only exempt coastwise goods from certain dues, and would not exempt them from all dues, I think the Amendments are out of order.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I am grateful for your assistance in the matter, Sir, but may I submit to you respectfully that the point I desire to raise is to secure equality of treatment between the rates thrown upon the goods coming from inland and the goods coming coastwise.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That was a matter for the Committee upstairs to consider. I believe they have determined that point. All I have to consider is whether these Amendments are in order, bearing in mind the Act of 1908. In my opinion they are not.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I understand that the original Act determines that goods which were brought from abroad into this country should be subject to certain dues. These goods are not brought from abroad, but from other ports in the United Kingdom. The object of the hon. Gentleman opposite is to prevent preferential treatment being accorded over the goods which come over a railway by goods which are brought from another port. I do not think that was contemplated in the original Act.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
There is no distinction at all in the original Act between different classes of goods for transhipment.
§ Mr. MORTON
had given notice of the following Amendment: To move, at the end of paragraph 4, to insert the words: "Provided also, that no port rates shall be charged on other goods or articles used for the food of man until port rates to the extent of 60 per cent. of the maximum rates specified in the Schedule to this Order upon goods other than such goods or articles so used shall have been levied." And "Provided also, that no port rates on other goods or articles used for the food of man shall be charged exceeding in amount 25 per cent. of the maxima upon such goods or articles specified in the Schedule to this Order."
The object of my next Amendments is, if possible, to protect the food and the other necessaries of the people of London from taxation. I find, however, so little interest taken in this question by a Free Trade Government that I do not propose, especially as we want time for other purposes, to move these Amendments.
§ Amendments, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. MORTON
Then I hope the Government will give us time to consider it. We want, at any rate, to see what is to be done in the matter in another place.
§ Mr. WALTER M'LAREN
The decision you have come to, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Amendments of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton will cause a very great disappointment in the commercial community in the Midland counties, who certainly thought that some opportunity would be allowed so that this matter could be considered. It is not a matter lightly to be passed over. The unfortunate fact of my hon. Friend being out of order in his Amendment seems to debar those of us who really take a very deep interest in it from considering the matter. I think, if only for that reason, it might be desirable to postpone the Third Reading of this Bill to see in what way it could be considered, whether on Report or in Committee, in relation to this particular matter. The position that Wolverhampton and other towns in the Midlands take is, if I understand it, that they will be handicapped as compared with coast towns. 960 This is really a very serious matter for the traders of inland towns. Take the case of Wolverhampton, which my hon. Friend knows much better than I do. What of the great works of Wolverhampton—those of Lycett's, which were deliberately removed from Wolverhampton to Newport because of the disability they suffered there owing to their inland situation? If they are to be under worse conditions by this Bill, which is what we allege, in consequence of the port dues, then it becomes more and more difficult for traders in inland and midland towns to carry on their competition against those traders who are situated at a seaport. I think some further consideration should be shown by the Board of Trade in this important matter, and that we should not be debarred by this unfortunate point of order from having the matter rectified in the present Bill. I think, therefore, that unless this Debate on the Third Reading can be adjourned so that the President of the Board of Trade may look further into the matter, we shall protest against the present situation by frankly voting against it. I beg formally to move that the Debate be adjourned.
§ Mr. G. THORNE
I beg to second that Amendment. The fact that the Amendments which I put down appear not to be in order places me in a position that I cannot now urge in the way I desire to urge the point covered by the Amendments. The result, Mr. Speaker, is that I am compelled to oppose the whole Bill, whereas, as a matter of absolute fact, I only desire to oppose that particular section of the Bill which seemed to me to be unjust and unfair. As the hon Gentleman who has just sat down pointed out, the object of my Amendments was to try to make the Bill, which on the whole I am entirely in favour of, consistent and to work with justice and fair play in the particular points in which the interests of the district I represent are I believe very seriously jeopardised. Consequently I am compelled to support the Motion which has been made in order that I may bring as clearly as I possibly can to the House what I could not urge in these specific forms of my Amendments. I do not know whether in the first instance before urging it any further the President of the Board of Trade is willing to listen to the appeal which has just been made that this Debate may be adjourned in order that the matter may be carefully considered, and the specific point I desire to 961 urge, looked into? If the right hon. Gentleman, however, is not prepared to do that I trust I may be in order on this Motion in stating the position in which we are placed. The effect of the Bill, if it passes, will be that the Midlands will be placed in future at a very much greater disadvantage as regards coastwise towns in export traffic than they are at present. Their disadvantage is great at present. I have brought that home to the House previously, and I trust I may be in order in submitting it now, because by the ventilation which will be given to the unfairness, as I gather it, between inland and coastwise traffic, we may hope in some way, if not now, at some later date, to see some alteration that may be made in the interest of trade in the Midlands. The effect of this Bill, if it passes in its present form, will be that goods now coming from Midlands or any inland towns, manufactured articles coming through the Port of London for export, will have to pay dues. In addition raw materials coming from outside into this country into the Midlands will also have to pay dues. The midland manufacturer will be hit both ways, both in his export and in his import. The coastwise manufacturer already has an advantage in not having to bear these heavy railway rates. No such handicap has been placed upon him at all. He neither has to pay export nor import rates. Clearly the position of the midland trader, which has been hard enough hitherto, is going in the future to be made much harder still. My hon. Friend referred to what those of us who live in the Midlands, and particularly those who live in the town which I have the honour to represent, are so familiar with, and that is that the burden imposed by railway rates upon the heavy goods traffic sent for export have been so great as to practically make it impossible, or almost make it impossible, to carry on in the Midlands this trade at all. I gave examples before. I may be permitted just to refer to them again. Large works in some of these towns have been removed—I believe I am stating exactly what is the fact—because they find the rates so heavy for carrying goods by railway, or the only alternative, that is by canal—and everyone who knows anything about it knows that the canals are under the control of the railway companies, and consequently there are little benefits to the inland trader by using the canals as distinguished from the railway. With a 962 burden such as has to be carried, it has been found by some traders that the best thing to do is to remove the business to the coast, and one large business has gone to Newport, Mon., and another to Elswick. They could not carry on in the inland towns, and they had to remove, and they are now flourishing at the port. Manufacturers in the Midlands are competing with manufacturers of the coast towns. They have a hard struggle, handicapped as they are, yet now it is proposed to increase that handicap by another. So far the people of the Midlands had to submit, but when it comes to a question of Parliament interfering, surely, if it interferes at all, it ought to interfere in the direction of lessening rather than increasing such a handicap; but to the surprise of everybody concerned, Parliament is asking to interfere in connection with the great Port of London, the prosperity of which we all desire so that the persons coming to that port may have a further advantage given them. Goods coming from the coast into the Port of London are to be free from rates as against the manufacturers in the Midland towns. On the merits, I submit it is absolutely entirely unjust, and it is a discrimination that Parliament ought not to consent to. I had intended to move an Amendment to that effect, but as I have not been able to move it, I have been forced to raise the question upon the third reading of the Bill.
I ask hon. Members to consider the position in which we are placed. It is a position which is most unjust to the trade of the Midland towns, and if this Bill came before them now for the first time I am sure the sense of justice in this House would make hon. Members absolutely refuse any such discrimination. This is the third time I have burdened the House with this matter, but I did suppose the merits would have been considered by the Committee. Evidence was given from various towns including my own. I have heard or read it all. It was carefully placed before the Committee, and it was carefully considered by the Committee; I do not suggest anything to the contrary, and I can understand in the circumstances that it might not have been possible for the Committee itself to report any alteration in view of the difficulties actually existing, and that the Committee itself might hope that the House would do something. We certainly had hoped that the discrimination involving the Act of 1908 might have been got rid of by a fairer Act in 1910. I trust, as hon. Members 963 were not afforded an opportunity of supporting me in the specific Amendment I had intended to move, that they may be able to support me in the Division which will take place upon this Motion.
We have never had the case which we have made answered upon its merits. Manufactured goods from Wolverhampton to London now pay dues, whereas goods coming from Hull to London do not pay any dues. The injustice is so manifest on the face of it that I have asked how on the merits it could be justified. The only answer I get is, "It is the result of a Parliamentary bargain." Surely there are two conditions necessary to a bargain. The first is that all the parties whose interests are concerned ought to be consulted, and in the next that the terms of the bargain ought to be precise and clear. I do not think either of these conditions has been fulfilled on the present occasion. The persons most involved are the traders of the Midlands, yet they never heard or knew anything about this bargain. When in 1908 the Bill came up for discussion, if I am informed rightly, this very discrimination did not appear in the Bill, and it was only put in at the last moment during the last of the Committee stage. When the matter came before Lord St. Aldwyn, although the railway companies were aware of it, the persons who were worst hit and who ought to have it brought immediately to their notice did not hear anything about it. The Act of 1908 decided that this should be done by Provisional Order, so that the bargain was not completed by the Act of 1908, and I had hoped to have an opportunity of showing how that bargain might have been rectified in the interest of all parties concerned. I submit, therefore, from the standpoint of a bargain, it is not fair that this discrimination should be made in favour of the coastwise traffic.
I am told it is necessary to have a free port in the interests of the trade of the Empire. We all desire that the trade of the Empire should be extended to the fullest extent, and I have not the slightest desire to interfere with that, but I ask for equality of terms as between the inland towns and the coast, and if sacrifices are to be made in favour of the development of the trade of the Empire let there be equality of sacrifice. Why should the whole of the sacrifice be thrown upon the inland trade? I have not asked for any preference for the inland trade as against the coastwise trade. What I object to is 964 preference to the coastwise trade as against the inland. What will be the result of this Bill? The agitation which has been raised will not stop here, and this Bill will, in the interest of common sense and justice and fair play, have to be altered. The only answer made on the merits to me was the suggestion made outside, namely, that the persons we have to fight are the railway companies and not the Port of London. They tell me the railway companies are so intimately concerned in order to get a trade for themselves and to prevent the manufacturers going to the coast that they will listen. We have a good object lesson that they will not do anything of the kind. If they desired to keep the trade they would have lessened the rates, but they have refused. I am not one of those who is in the slightest degree hanging on to the tail of the railway companies. I am prepared to fight the railway companies and the canal companies in the interest of our inland trade, though I do not think this is the proper time. I am not here to try and make it easy for the railway companies I know what those companies have done, and I am not here to blame them. Under existing rules and systems they have to provide dividends for their shareholders, and I recognise their difficulties. I have lived for thirty years in the Midlands, and I know of no place better adapted for the development of trade if the conditions are fair, reasonable, and just. We have three railways running into Wolverhampton and a good canal system, but all these advantages are frustrated by the heavy rates imposed, which make it impossible for us to carry on our trade successfully. I am not here to deal with the railway companies, but I am dealing with the Port of London Bill, and I say I do not think it is fair in a Bill of this kind that my objections should be shelved by being referred to the railway companies. I ask for justice from Parliament, and it is not fair to tell me to go to the railway companies and ask for mercy. We ask to be fairly treated by this House on the merits of our case, and if this discrimination is to be persisted in I shall be bound against my will to ask the House to divide upon the Third Reading in order to show that hon. Members are opposed to any such unfair discrimination. Those who vote for the Third Reading of this Bill are simply saying to everyone now trading in the Midlands, "Your wise course is to go to the coast in order to escape from the 965 railway rates." I am taking this course not merely, in the interests of competing manufacturers in the Midlands, who will have to compete with the coastwise manufacturers, but in the interests of the real victims of the dislocation that will be caused, namely, the workmen. The coastwise manufacturers can take their skilled workmen with them, but the unskilled workmen cannot follow, and in this respect Wolverhampton affords an object-lesson, because we have now a large number of workmen casually employed, and many of them have no employment at all. I hope hon. Members will recognise the unfairness to which we are exposed by this measure, and I trust they will decide that justice shall be done. I may say that I have seen this thing first hand, and I am not speaking of something of which I have been told. I have seen it going on for thirty years. Yesterday I went down to a part of Wolverhampton which is exposed to this unfair treatment, and I saw the land lying derelict because the works had been removed to the coast. I also saw some of the empty houses and shops and the unemployed, a state of things which is the direct result of unfair discrimination. We have got that already, and it is cruelly unfair that on top of this should be added this unfair handicap in fighting the battle of trade in which we are told, "You must go to the coast if you want to live at all." At the eleventh hour I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to do us justice in this matter. I know he is placed in a difficult position, but I ask him, even now, to consider whether he cannot give time in some way to consider whether this discrimination cannot be removed in order that we may be able loyally to support the Port of London in regard to this measure. I trust that if there is no other way of removing what is unfair and unjust in this discrimination, that hon. Members will support me in voting against the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON
The Motion before the House is for the adjournment of the Debate and not the Third Reading. The speech of the hon. Member shows that there will be no advantage in postponing the Third Reading. As regards the Motion for Adjournment, I am sure the hon. Member for Wolverhampton will not expect me to debate the merits of the question. As the House is about to adjourn for this part of the Session at an early date, I wish to point out that this question 966 is one of urgency as to whether this Bill can be placed on the Statute Book before the Adjournment. It will be a matter of serious moment to the Port Authority if the measure has to be postponed until the autumn. This Bill has been before a Committee of the House of Commons, and it has still to go to a Committee of the House of Lords, where they will be able to consider this point. I hope that, under these circumstances, the House will reject the Motion for Adjournment, and allow us to proceed with the Third Reading.
Mr. ERNEST POLLOCK
I wish to support the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate by way of protest upon this extremely important matter. I think my hon. Friend is right in moving the adjournment of the Debate instead of taking a Division on the Third Reading. A great many of us would be in favour of large portions of this Bill, but we have not had an opportunity of having this particular matter fully ventilated. This is a question of very serious importance to a large district in England——
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to go into the merits of the question. The only question before the House is whether or not the Debate shall be adjourned.
The reason why the House should adjourn is that a very important matter which ought to be fully dealt with at some point by the House has not yet had the opportunity of being considered. The question which the hon. Member for Wolverhampton has dealt with so eloquently is one on which I desire to support him, and I do so on the same grounds and from the same point of view. The Bill which is now being debated is one which has disappointed those who have put their trust in the hope that they would be able to obtain the fulfilment of their expectations. In the interests of the importance of this question I think this Debate should be adjourned in order that an opportunity may be given for further considering the extremely important question which has been raised. Inasmuch as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was allowed to speak somewhat generally upon the matter, perhaps it will be best for me to say he has covered the ground that I should desire to follow, and, without trespassing any further upon the House, I should like to say that, whenever the opportunity does come, I should desire to support him, and I support him now.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Perhaps I had better explain. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton was, technically, speaking on the question of the Third Reading, and he was, therefore, allowed to travel over the whole subject. Until he concluded by seconding the Adjournment, I could not put the question, but, as soon as the question of the Adjournment is put, the House is confined by Standing Order No. 22 to a Debate upon the Adjournment. That is why the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was given a certain amount of latitude which the hon. Member himself has not received.
§ Sir A. WILLIAMSON
Might I ask at what point we may have an opportunity of traversing some of the statements made by the hon. Member?
§ Sir COURTENAY WARNER
We who oppose this Bill are quite justified in pressing for the adjournment of the Debate, because, although we did not divide against the Second Reading, it was on the understanding that we should have some chance of discussing this matter. No doubt the question was raised in Committee, but our chances were very small there, and we do not consider the Midlands have had that fair consideration to which they are entitled. On that ground, I think we are justified in pressing that the Motion for the Adjournment should be allowed to pass and the negotiations go a little further to see if with some more consideration matters may not be arranged. It is not sufficient to say this Bill will come up again before a House of Lords Committee. It depends with how much sympathy those who are pressing the Bill, the Port of London Authorities and the Government, consider the very serious grievance which in our view exists. I think, therefore, my hon. Friend is quite justified, and I shall vote with him in asking for the adjournment of the Debate.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out to the President of the Board of Trade that if he consents to the adjournment of the Debate he will not in any kind of way injure his own case. There are at least ten days, and probably a fortnight, before we adjourn for the Recess, and during that time he can bring up the Bill for Third Reading, providing he has not come to an arrangement. He cannot say a fortnight's delay will make any difference to the operation of the Bill.
§ Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON
If the Bill passes this House, a certain number of days' notice has to be given before the Committee of the House of Lords can be set up, and this is practically the last day on which I am afraid the Bill could get through in this portion of the Session. What it really means is that the Port of London Authority would lose three or four months' revenue, which is a serious matter.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It must be remembered we are to have an Autumn Session, and this is an important point advanced from all parts of the House, and not a party point. Even if it does cause a loss of revenue, I venture to say it ought to be considered. An hon. Gentleman behind said the matter could not be arranged, but it could by passing a short Act amending the Act of 1908. It may be that might be necessary, but that only shows the importance of adjourning the Debate. Really the House ought to consider whether or not it might be necessary to pass a short Act to amend the Act of 1908 before giving a Third Reading to this Bill. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will consent, at any rate, to the adjournment of the Debate. Possibly he might to-morrow be able to come to some agreement with the hon. Members on his own side of the House who have moved the adjournment, and I cannot believe one day will make the difference he thinks.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I hope the House will not agree to the adjournment of the Debate. Everyone who has spoken has admitted that on the main part of the Bill there is full agreement. There is a general agreement except for this particular part, and the Provisional Order is brought here on the mandate of this House by the Act of 1908. There has been an Executive inquiry held by Lord St. Aldwyn, and everyone was heard. The railway companies and the Midland counties could be heard, and, after that exhaustive inquiry, on the responsibility of the Board of Trade, the Bill comes to this House. It goes through all the forms of this House, and on the Second Reading Instructions were passed. A full and exhaustive inquiry is held upstairs, and the Committee reports. There has been a Debate here——
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was ruled out of order.
§ Sir E. CORNWALL
I did not say there was any Debate on that particular point. I was using arguments why this Debate should not be adjourned, and I say it should not be adjourned because of all the various stages, the more than usual stages through which this Provisional Order has passed. No Provisional Order has had more discussion than this one, and I think it would be a very unfair thing to all those who have worked on the Bill, the Port Authority, Lord St. Aldwyn, the Board of Trade, and the Committee of this House, if all that valuable time were thrown away and the Debate were adjourned, with the risk of losing getting the Order through before the House rises for the Recess. There can be no case of adjourning the Debate. It is all very well for the hon. Baronet to say you might come to terms to-morrow. I admire people who fight as long as there is any chance of winning, but no useful purpose whatever could be served by adjourning the Debate. It is well known the whole of this question has been thoroughly threshed out. The Provisional Order is brought here on the mandate of Parliament, and I think it is carrying opposition a little too far to prevent the Port Authority having this Provisional Order to-night.
§ Mr. McCURDY
I rise to support the Motion for Adjournment. The last speaker has referred to the numerous occasions on which this House has had an opportunity of discussing this Bill, but, so far as I know, this House has had no opportunity of discussing the only important matter in connection with this Bill, a matter which affects the Members representing the Midland counties. I can inform the President of the Board of Trade that, in the ordinary course of the present Parliament, I know of no measure which has come before it which has excited more interest among the responsible citizens of the Midland town I represent than the Bill which is before the House to-night. They feel that in the Amendment there is an endeavour to raise a grievance of substance, and we regard it as of so much importance that, with reluctance, I shall be compelled to vote altogether against the Third Reading of this Bill, unless I get some satisfaction. The particular purpose for which I rise is to inquire whether 970 the President of the Board of Trade cannot give us some assurance which will enable us to vote for the Third Reading of this Bill, if the Debate is not adjourned to-night. I understand it would be possible, with the goodwill of the Board of Trade, and of other persons, to still rectify the injustices of which constituencies such as mine complain, but unless the President of the Board of Trade can give some reasonable hope and some assurance that if we consent to the passing of this Bill to-night there will be some opportunity for the rectification of the injustice imposed by the Bill, I shall vote against the Third Reading. For this reason I support the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Colonel HICKMAN
I also support the Motion for Adjournment. The only thing the President of the Board of Trade has said against the adjournment is that it may do some possible monetary injustice to the Port of London for the space of a few months. But I must urge that if this Bill passes as it is now framed, and if there is no adjournment of this Debate, it will do most permanent injury to the industries of the Midlands, which is a much more important matter than any small injury that may be done to the Port of London for a few months. It seems to me the right hon. Gentleman, in his position as a Minister of the Crown, has a very high duty to see that justice is done in all Bills that are passed through this House. It does not appear to me that we are getting justice for the Midlands, and therefore I feel it my duty to support the Amendment.
§ Mr. STUART-WORTLEY
I wish to make it clear that the vote I give to-night, in so far as it is affected by my own Constituency, must be in support of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to consider gravely whether it is not a very serious factor in this discussion that the great inland communities are dissatisfied with the inquiries that have taken place up to now, and whether that does not make it desirable, seeing that there is a feeling of unrest and dissatisfaction in many quarters of the House that time should be granted so as to see if some way cannot be found out of the difficulty. I rise, not for the purpose of prolonging the Debate, but to make it clear that there are many great industrial communities which desire this delay.
§ Mr. SYDNEY BUXTON
I think it is quite clear that the feeling on both sides of the House is in favour of adjournment, I very much regret it, because delay may mean a very serious financial loss to the Port of London, and that is a matter of some moment. But under the circumstances, I am prepared, in deference to the feeling which has been expressed, to accept the Motion for Adjournment.