§ (1) Every seagoing British ship registered in the United Kingdom being a passenger steamer or a ship of sixteen hundred tons gross tonnage or upwards shall be provided with a wireless telegraph installation and shall maintain a wireless telegraph service which shall be at least sufficient to comply with the rules made for the purpose under this Act, and shall be provided with one or more certified operators and watchers, at least, in accordance with those rules:
§ Provided that the Board of Trade may exempt from the obligations imposed by this Act any ships or classes of ships if they are of opinion that, having regard to the nature of the voyages on which the ships are engaged, or other circumstances of the case, the provision-of a wireless telegraph apparatus is unnecessary or unreasonable.
§ Mr. CHADWICK
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the word "seagoing."
Before coming to the subject of my Amendment, I would ask the House to realise that the object of this Bill is to increase the safety of life at sea. Hitherto, our legislators have not thought it necessary to go beyond providing a man with the means of keeping himself afloat after he gets into the water, but this Bill gives him the means of providing himself with another ship. I would ask hon. Members to keep in mind two main factors with regard to wireless on board ship, namely, the ability to call for help and the ability to hear a call for help. There is no need for me to insist on the immense significance of those two vital factors. I am sure the House will share my view that 2147 the service of wireless telegraphy must be brought to the use of our seamen to the widest possible extent. There are difficulties of expense and of organisation, but those difficulties can be and must be overcome. I have affirmed repeatedly in this House, in Committee, and in the Press that these difficulties can be overcome, and I have used, as an illustration, the case of the aeroplane. if an aerial pilot flying his machine under the most difficult conditions of nerve strain, and, possibly, fighting, if he, comparatively untrained in the use of wireless telegraphy, can exchange messages with his gums of his base with the accuracy required by the exigencies of war, then it is comparatively child's play for the operation to be carried out on board any ship under any conditions. I was very relieved to see in to-day's "Times" a remarkable statement by no less a person than Mr. Godfrey Isaacs, the manager of the Marconi Company. I would ask the House to bear in mind the great and unreasonable objection raised by shipowners on the ground of cost. He says:There can be no question, I think, that wireless would lend considerable safety at sea if all ships were so equipped, so that even small boats within a radius of from SO to 100 miles could be summoned to render assistance in case of need. There can be 1:0 better evidence of this than the case of the 'Titanic'Just think of the "Titanic" not being able to call up ships passing within ten miles of her. They had nothing on which to put the passengers, and 1,400 people in a ship that took three hours to sink in a smooth sea were drowned—This expense could be avoided" —The expense of the operator—if one of the ship's officers went through a short course of instruction. It would not be necessary for any watch to be kept, and his services would only be required in cases of distress. The apparatus could be so constructed as to respond only to the S.O.S. call, which would cause a bell to ring and so summon attention. Such an installation could be installed upon a ship and maintained at the cost of £60That is a very remarkable statement, and to me a very encouraging statement. I never believed that they would go so far. It is a statement made deliberately and repeatedly by the greatest wireless authority that I know—the Marconi Company. It seems to me that it disposes completely and finally of any objection on the ground of cost. If there are still those who object on the ground of that 2148 small cost of £60 a year, I would just mention one item on the other side of the account. It is generally admitted—the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has admitted it—that if wireless is generally used on ships it. will reduce the mortality of ships, and, if I know anything about insurance, that will reduce the premiums for insurance. Take a ship of five, six, or seven hundred tons and put her value at £20,000. Her insurance, probably is £0 per cent. per annum. If the reduced mortality brought about a reduction in the insurance premiums of only one-half per cent, per annum, it would be £100 on £20,000, and that would wipe out the whole cost of wireless. That, however, is only one item; there are many others that I could mention.
With regard to my proposal to omit the word "seagoing" from this Clause, I moved this in Committee, but I want the Amendment to have a much more searching test than was possible in a Committee in which only twenty-six or twenty-seven members out of a total of seventy were present. The matter was galloped through in a couple of hours, and then it was only lost by one vote. I think 1 can get a better test of the Amendment this afternoon. If the word "seagoing" remains in this Bill there will be a large number of ships, carrying thousands of passengers round our coast, which will not come within the scope of the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has told us that there is no definite meaning to the expression "seagoing." He said:I do not think it is a term actually used in any Act of Parliament, but it is generally understood to exclude vessels paying in smooth or partially smooth waters.I contend that every passenger ship should be brought within the scope of this Bill. Under the terms of the next paragraph in the Bill, the Board of Trade have the power to exempt certain classes of ships, but 1 say that every passenger ship should be brought within the scope of this Bill unless she can show either that she is a ferry boat or that under no circumstances would wireless be useful to her in an emergency. Imagine what might happen at any moment on the Clyde, on the Thames, in the Bristol Channel, in the case of these services of fast boats, very lightly built, carrying thousands of people over smooth or partially smooth water, under which definition they would not come within the scope of this Bill.
2149 My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Raoburn), whose opinion I always value as one of the most experienced and leading shipping men in the country, particularly on the Clyde, made I last Friday in the Committee a most illuminating contribution to the discussion on this very subject. He said:Take vessels like the 'Columba,' the 'King Edward,' and also the Clyde dredgers which go out to sea as far as Gairroch Head. All of these, unless they were exempted by the Board of Trade, would have to he fitted with wireless. But think of the Culumba,' with l,500 souls on board !I ask the House to note this and to bear in mind that the hon. Member was resisting my Amendment. He went on to say:if that vessel met with any accident that needed wireless, every soal would be at the bottom of the sea unless the rafts and lifebelts saved them. Where would you get wifeless to by of any use?…You cannot possibly have lifeboats for a ship of that kind you must have lifebelts.The hon. Member wishes to deprive these very people, whose only means of safety, he says, is a lifebelt, of the means of announcing their distress to the world and calling up any possible assistance that might be within reach. I consider that in passing this Bill as it stands, with the word "seagoing" in it, we have a most solemn responsibility, especially after the announcement that I have quoted to the House from the Marconi Company—a deliberate official announcement made by the greatest wireless authority in the world. They tell you that they can put on board your ship an instrument that will respond to an emergency call by ringing a bell, and will do away with the necessity of having an operator always listening in, and that the ship can receive a call in that way, and would merely require an officer who had passed through a course of training in wireless telegraphy.
§ Mr. STURROCK
I have great pleasure in seconding the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow. I do so because I sincerely feel that, if this Amendment, and the other Amendments which follow in the sequel, are adopted, this measure is going to be as important to the future of life at sea as was the Plimsoll mark, which caused so much controversy in the days when it was fought in this House, and which met with exactly the same sort of opposition which I venture to say is manifested by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton. All that is proposed here is to make it obligatory upon vessels, whether plying 2150 on the deep seas or in the waterways of the country, to carry wireless, so that they may summon to their assistance any vessel which may be in the near neighbourhood. It is said that this is carrying the idea to a ridiculous extent. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) said the other day in Committee that the Amendments on the Paper would compel tugs and trawlers, and craft of that type, to carry wireless, and, he asked, was there ever a more ridiculous idea than that? I have no doubt that my hon. and gallant Friend knows a good deal more about the sea than I do. but I do submit that this is a matter upon which either a landsman or a seaman may equally take a definite stand. If a large vessel such as the "Titanic'' is lying wounded at sea as the result of some disaster, and you are going to say that you will not have tugs and trawlers and other small craft fitted with wireless because they have only a few people on board, you are going to rule them out of the possibility of going to the aid of a large wounded liner which may be sinking rapidly within a few miles of where they are steaming quietly along, quite unconscious of the tragedy. I read the other day a statement which 1 venture to quote in proof of what my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow is standing for, in the official log of the "R34" on her return journey from America, on the voyage which is historic in our annals and which happily ended safely, but which might just as conceivably have ended otherwise in the Atlantic. In the log of the "R34" it is mentioned by the commanding officer that at one difficult point in the journey, when the navigators did not know where they were, they sighted two trawlers, and endeavoured to get into communication with them; but the log says, "As they were not fitted with wireless we got no response." I ask my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton and others who are opposing this very fair and reasonable proposal, to indulge in a slight flight of imagination and try to realise that this matter of the universal installation of wireless is not only going to relate in years to come to scacraft, but is going to be of the utmost importance from the point of view of the development of air services here, there, and everywhere. I regard it as of the greatest importance that every vessel which goes to sea, no matter what her tonnage may be, or whether she plys on the deep sea or in 2151 waterways, should be fitted with such an installation as will render her able, even though she does not have the widest possible scope, anyhow to pick up a message from any vessel which may be in danger in the near neighbourhood.
My hon. Friend has referred to the letter which appears in the Press to-day with regard to the question of the cost of a Marconi installation. I submit that in this House we have not only got to look at the question from the point of view of costs. I confess that I have the utmost sympathy with shipowners like my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton. We know how they have suffered from the' War in every way possible, and 1 am sure we extend a deep measure of sympathy to them. But when they come before us here or in Committee and say that by insisting on this humane proposal we are going to drive them into bankruptcy, all I can say is that 1 almost wish I could share their financial plight. [Laughter.] I do submit that we should support this proposal, which is really a businesslike proposal, and should say that we will do whatever lies in our power through the agency of this House to save life at sea. Hon. Gentlemen say that you cannot do it because you put too great a burden on the shipowner. I think the letter of Mr. Godfrey Isaacs in to-day's "Times" is a sufficient answer to that. I do feel that, standing as we are on the morrow of the great War, after we have said everything that wa3 kind and indulgent and appreciative of our seamen, whether of the Navy or of the Mercantile Marine, the points embodied in this and the other Amendments on the Paper are going to put to the acid test our sincerity in all those professions. I submit to the House most earnestly that, having in view the debt we owe to every man who has gone to sea during the trying course of the War—crews coming ashore one day from the lifeboats of their shipwrecked vessels and re-engaging next day to go back to sea again—if we are going to supplement in a sincere way all the professions of gratitude we have made to our seamen, we ought to accept this Amendment, and so do more than I believe has been done since the Plimsoll Mark was agreed to, to secure the safety not only of our sailors but of all those who go down to the sea in ships
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of SHIPPING (Lieut.-Colonel Leslie Wilson)
I am sure 2152 the House will agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow in saying that the object of this Bill should be to bring the services of wireless telegraphy to the use of seamen in the widest possible sense. The Government fully agrees with that view, but they cannot accept the Amendment which the hon. Member has moved, and I will give what I believe to be really solid reasons why they cannot do so. I should like to refer to the letter which my hon. Friend quoted from the "Times" of this morning, signed by Mr. Godfrey Isaacs, than whom no one has the right to speak with greater authority on questions relating to wireless telegraphy. My hon. Friend suggests that this docs away practically with any argument in reference to the cost of it wireless installation in any ship. But I should like to point out to him that Mr. Godfrey Isaacs' letter does not state any way in which such an installation could be put in at a cost of £60. He says:Such an installation could, I think, be installed upon a ship and maintained at a cost of about £60 a year…such an annual expenditure would not, I think, be a burden upon any owner.At the present time this low estimate is based on the assumption that there will be an efficient automatic calling device, and that it will not be necessary to have any person in attendance. In the second place, if an automatic device of a simple kind has been invented, certainly it will simplify the problem. But up to the present the Government Department concerned has no information that a satisfactory calling device has been produced. With reference to a further remark made in that letter, and alluded to by my hon. Friend, in which Mr. Isaacs said:This expense—that is. the cost of wirless equipment on board ship, and the necessity of expert wireless operators—This expense could be avoided if one of the ship's officers went through a short course of instruction.it sounds very easy, but. in the first place, I understand that the shortest possible course of instruction to be of any value at all must be at least three months; and, m the second place, I speak with knowledge when I say there would be considerable opposition to these dual duties being placed on ships' officers, and I think that is a consideration which has to be taken into view when this problem is being considered.
2153 Coming to the Amendment, I think there is a considerable amount of misunderstanding as to what the word "seagoing" actually means. It is quite true that there is no statutory definition of the word "seagoing, "but it is a term which is clearly understood and generally accepted by every owner, by every officer, and, I believe, by every man in the Mercantile Service. May I speak from my own practical experience, which, after all, is useful? It has been part of my duty to deal with the question of wages of the merchant service, as chairman of the National Maritime Board, and in that connection we have to fix the standard rate of wages of seagoing ships, and for ships plying in smooth or partially smooth waters. I can assure the House that there is never any dispute as to where you should draw the line. It is clearly understood, and it is laid down in some cases what arc the seagoing snips and what are the ships which ply in smooth and partially smooth waters. I will take some concrete instances which I think will satisfy my hon. Friend. Take the case of the Clyde. In the Clyde, the smooth water limits mean within a line from Skipness Point round the Isle of Bute, but a ship that went as far as Ardrossan would go outside those limits, and would have to be fitted with wireless, or even if going from Ardrossan to Arran. But my hon. Friend would seem to think that any ship plying on Loch Lomond should have wireless.
§ Colonel WILSON
But it is surely unnecessary. Take the case of the Mersey. Any passenger vessel which, in winter, goes beyond the Rock Lighthouse would have to be fitted with wireless. In the case of the Thames, any steamer going beyond Walton on one side or Margate on the other would have to be fitted with wireless. The effect of this Amendment really would be to extend the Bill to passenger steamers which ply entirely in smooth and partially smooth waters.
§ Mr. STURROCK
Surely the wordsProvided that the Board of Trade may exempt from the obligations imposed by this Act any ships or classes of ships.cover the case of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman speaks!
§ Colonel WILSON
It is perfectly possible, of course, for the word to be omitted, but I suggest to the House that the Amendment is quite unnecessary. It would throw an enormous amount of work on the Board of Trade. Every ship plying in smooth or partially smooth waters would have to be exempted under this proviso in the Bill. It is, if I may say so. an unreasonable Amendment, because I do not understand what advantage would be gained by it. it would put another burden on the coasting trade in smooth waters, and I am sure the House agrees that at the present time the last thing we want to do is to put any additional burdens on the coasting trade, which is suffering under burdens already. We are most anxious to restore the coasting trade to work it did in pre-war days, and, if any extra burdens are added, it will be a very serious handicap bringing that trade to its pre-war service. My hon. Friend who spoke last spoke as if this Amendment would be opposed entirely by the shipowners on the ground of cost. I am in no way defending the shipowners, but there is no objection on the part of the shipowners on the question of cost. They are quite ready to meet any cost which may be necessary, if they think it reasonable or if life will be saved by the instalment of wireless on these ships; but I do maintain that it is not reasonable to insist upon the instalment of wireless on ships which ply absolutely within smooth or partially smooth waters, which are never out of sight of land, and the instalment of wireless on which would' not, I am convinced, save one single life at any time. As I say, these ships must always be in sight of land. [An HON. MEMBER: "In a fog?"] Of course, they would not be in sight of land in a fog, but, even if they were in a fog, would they be assisted if they had wireless? If they are absolutely in sight of land, or close to the land, they will always get assistance from the coast—from lifeboats or other means. Therefore, I do ask the House to reject this Amendment, as I believe it is unnecessary, and I can almost say unreasonable.
§ Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY
After the very plain and straightforward speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping, I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] First of all, let me ask the House not to be swayed by the "Titanic" disaster. Unfortunately, the "Titanic" relied too much on her wireless, and if she had used the old-fashioned minute-gun the ship which was within ten miles would have been called. I am as alive as anyone to the great advantages and uses in the future of wireless telegraphy, but the thing can be carried a little too far. This Amendment must be considered in connection with another Amendment lower down in the names of the same lion. Members and another hon. Member (Mr. Sexton), in which they wish to reduce the size of the ship to be fitted with wireless to 500 tons.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I think there is. I do | not see any objection to pointing out where the House may be landed if it accepts both Amendments.
§ Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY
I would ask the House to remember the reference which has been made to R. 34 communicating with trawlers by wireless. If every fishing vessel has to have wireless, I can see very considerable difficulty. In trawlers it is necessary to economise the personnel to the utmost. At the present moment there is a very unfortunate strike going on on the North-East coast among the fishing trawlers as to whether they shall carry an extra trimmer for the long Icelandic voyage. It must be observed that the Bill says that "passenger steamer" shall mean a steamer carrying more than twelve passengers, which is no doubt right and proper; but if we cut out the word seagoing, one result will be that any penny steamer running past this honourable House will be required to have wireless. The thing is absurd; we must be practical. I am as great a believer in wireless, and probably know as much about it as anyone in this House, but I must resist the Amendment. Coasters running between Newcastle and Leith are certainly seagoing vessels, and will come under the Bill, but this would hamper every vessel plying in the inland waters, and, as has been pointed out, it is most 2156 necessary that their trade should be revived. Certainly the Board of Trade can exempt them, but that means more officials, more inspectors, more harassing and hampering of the seafaring man who happens to be serving on a vessel plying on an estuary or river. He would need to have a licence exempting him from wireless, which would have to be vised by numerous officials. Life would be hardly worth living—it is hardly worth living now. And really, from the practical point of view, I hope the Committee will not accept this Amendment, and will not pay too much attention to that wireless expert, Mr. Godfrey Isaacs, who naturally is interested, and who would like to see wireles fitted by law to every Thames tug.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
I do not think I would have risen had I not been challenged by my hon. Friend. I desire to say only a single word about the suggested opposition of the shipowners. Wherever wireless is of any use I do not know of any shipowner who would begrudge the expense. But what is the use of going to the expense of putting in an installation if it is going to be futile? Take the case of the River Clyde. I think the hon. Member for Barrow had better come down and make the acquaintance of that river. Take vessels like the "Columba," the "King Edward," and other vessels of that typo which are plying in waters within a mile or so of the shore. Imagine something going wrong. This would all be in sight of the shore. There are all the other boats like the railway cross-channel and similar steamers which make a run of twenty minutes or thereabouts, or the vessels that ply on Loch Lomond, Lock Katrine, and so on. Is it really proposed to make shipowners use wireless for these places? My hon. Friend is entirely misinterpreting my arguments about lifeboats and life-rafts. What I meant to say was that the vessels to which I have referred ply on the waters of the Clyde in summer time, and they carry enormous numbers of passengers from Glasgow upwards. If wireless is to be of any use at all in the event of anything untoward happening, and in calling aid from a distance, the vessel must be able, or at any rate, presumed to be able, to keep afloat for some little time or else she must have lifeboats of some other means of preserving the lives of her passengers. If a vessel like the "Columba" was in collision, say, and 2157 did use her wireless, everyone on board would have a fair chance of being drowned before any aid arrived. That is, if that aid had to be called apart from the observation of any vessels near at hand. How on earth could aid arrive before everyone was drowned?
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
It is the extreme of sentimentality. In respect to the "Titanic," of which mention has been made, if my memory has not failed me, there was a ship near which could have rendered aid had it not been that the wireless operator was not in his cabin at the time the message came. But somewhat of a change has come over the scene to-day. A different sort of installation altogether is advocated. So far, however, as I can make out, the installation proposed is not one that the Board of Trade will pass. It is a strange thing that Mr. Godfrey Isaacs should now write a letter to the "Times" when the Chamber of Shipping and the Liverpool Shipowners' Association have been negotiating for over twelve months for a cheaper installation. If it could be proved that wireless fitted in these vessels would save life, the cost would be a secondary consideration in every man's mind. But when you are convinced, as I am, to the contrary in the case of vessels plying in calm waters, I say it is going to bring the whole idea into discredit. Put the installation where it will be useful, but do not spoil your case by having it fitted where it is of no particular use.
With respect to the argument relating to the expense, my hon. Friend says it could be saved on the insurance. I should like him to tell me of any underwriter who will give one single copper of rebate for insurance because a wireless installation has been fitted on board. I was speaking today, in the precincts of this House, to a well-known underwriter at Lloyd's. I said, "When you heard the hon. Member for Barrow making that statement, 1 am surprised that you, whose firm has time and again refused to give any rebate, did not get up and contradict it." The excuse my hon. Friend gave was that he did not think underwriters should intervene. Do not let us run away with the fallacy that this is a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, or that, because this will cost money, that we are hiding from those who are opposed to 2158 us the fact that we can get such a rebate on our insurance premiums as will cover the whole cost. Then as to saving property. We will have wireless on to save life, but I do not see how it is going to save much in the way of property. Again, supposing the vessel fitted with wireless was in collision. She might be dismasted, and down would come the aerial, and your wireless would be of no avail.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
Oh, yes. The hon. Member gave an instance of the boats taking people away on holiday trips, and suggesting that such boats would be exempt under the Board of Trade Regulations, seeing they plied in comparatively calm water. But applications for exemption to the Board of Trade or other Government Departments might probably be so prolonged that the holidays would be over before the exemption could be obtained. Generally, we are quite agreed as to the use and necessity for wireless in all cases where it may be properly fitted, but, as I said, do not let us spoil our case by putting wireless into vessels which are never in any danger, and making them apply to a Government Department for exemption, perhaps to be treated unreasonably, as sometimes we find to be the case.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I have listened to the very ingenious defence of the right lion. Gentleman opposite. The hon. and gallant Member for Hull also has tried to throw ridicule upon this Amendment. Comparatively smooth water has been mentioned. What is meant by that? The hon. Gentleman mentioned that the installation of wireless telegraphy on coasters would be a great burden to the coasting trade? What does he moan by the coasting trade? There are some coasters which voyage about the coast and are never out of sight of land, where there is just as big a sea—I have seen it and experienced it as there is in any part of the Atlantic Ocean. Let me give cases in point,. Would the hon. Gentleman say that a journey from the Mersey to Llan-dnddno was in smooth water or otherwise? Would he say that a voyage from Liverpool to Portsmouth, thence to London, was in smooth water, although land is in sight practically all the time? You are only two or three miles from land, but you may be in a perpetual fog.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I want to be sure of that. As to comparatively smooth water, around the whole of the Anglesey coast and outside the bar of the Mersey, I have seen tall water there—as big as any I have seen even off the South Stack, Holyhead. As to the question of saving life by lifeboat stations, surely the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members are aware that there are hundreds of places on our coasts to-day where it is impossible to get lifeboat service; places where there is no lifeboat and where it is not possible to establish it. I say that the arguments put forward are very ingenious, but they are met by the fact that there is a Clause in the Bill that gives the Board of Trade power to exempt any vessel that they think does not require to carry this installation. That, in itself, surely ought to be a sufficient safeguard and meet all the obstacles that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen wish to place in our way. My one point is this: that such apparatus is in existence, no opportunity ought to be lost of generally making things safer.
§ Mr. LINDSAY
This particular question was debated very thoroughly in -Committee, and very little more has been said to-day in support of it. I do not think it is realised what this Amendment means. It would make every passenger vessel, no matter what size, come inside the scope of this Bill. Obviously, to bring steamers that ply on the Thames, and even the boats that pass here, inside the scope of this Bill is an absurdity. I am. however, thinking more particularly of boats dealing with a small class of traffic in Ireland, such as those that ply on the Shannon, the Foyle, and similar waters. and to impose this condition in such cases would be a great inconvenience. With regard to the position of the Board of Trade, I do not think hon. Members can have road a letter in the "Times" of 16th July, by Lord Emmott, in which it was pointed out that the prevailing characteristic of Government officials was timidity. Under this proposal, if a question arises as to whether some vessels should or should not be, exempt, the official of the Board of Trade will always play for safety, because if he happened to be wrong he would be criticised. It would not matter to him whether he imposed an unfair burden on shipowners or not.
I think on the whole the hon. and gallant Gentleman 2160 who represents the Government in this matter has made out a good case for the retention of the word "seagoing." I wish, however, to ask him a, question. He said that everyone understood exactly what seagoing meant, and he referred to the Maritime Transport Committee, of which he was the chairman, and on which he said there never was any difficulty about finding out the meaning of seagoing. I would like to ask him if there is any legal definition of the word "seagoing"?
There appears to be a difference of opinion as to what smooth and partially smooth waters are, and as to what seagoing really means. As far as I can see, if this word is left in, it will lead to endless litigation, and I am not going to vote for anything that will lead to further litigation. We are rushing measures through this House at such a rate that they are not being properly considered, and I am sure the legislation which has gone through Parliament this year will lead to a crop of cases in the Courts in future years. I think that is an important point, and I hope the Government will he able to give me some answer on the point I have raised. I trust other hon. Members will be prepared to vote for the omission of the word "seagoing" from this Clause.
§ Mr. RENWICK
I think the hon. Member's statement about the safety of these vessels is fully met by the Board of Trade certificate. Certain passenger vessels receive a certificate that they are not to go outside the estuary, while others are given what are called seagoing certificates. It is distinctly recognised that there are two classes of licences for steamers to carry passengers in certain waters.
§ Colonel WILSON
I said there was no statutory definition of the word "seagoing," and that is strictly correct; but as regards seagoing vessels, it has been laid down very clearly by the Board of Trade under what limits they are to be allowed to sail. All this information is laid down in the regulations and instructions as to the certifying of passenger steamers, which give a list of places round the coast of the United Kingdom of those areas which come under smooth water limits, and, consequently, there can be no question of any litigation in regard to 2161 this matter, because the point has been laid down quite clearly. I gave only one or two instances, and I cannot attempt to deal with every smooth water limit round the coast of England, Scotland, and Ireland. There is no fear of litigation arising from this proposal, and in all these cases the word may be interpreted literally as smooth or partially smooth waters, and all those cases quoted by my
§ hon. Friends opposite would naturally be seagoing boats, and would be installed with wireless, and no boats which go outside the smooth or partially smooth waters limit would be without wireless.
§ Question put, "That the word 'seagoing stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 229; Noes,. 55.2163
|Division No. 81.||AYES.||[5.10 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Dockrell, Sir M.||McMicking. Major Gilbert|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Donald, T.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Duncannon, Viscount||Maddocks, Henry|
|Ainsworth, Captain C.||Du Pre, Colonel W. B.||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Amery, Lieut.-Colonel L. c. M. s.||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Marriott, John Arthur R.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Entwistle, Major C.||Martin, A. E.|
|Armitage, Robert||Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Mason, Robert|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Falcon, Captain M.||Matthews, David|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fell, Sir Arthur||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Partick)||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Morison, T. B. (Inverness)|
|Barker, Major R.||France, Gerald Ashburner||Morrison, H. (Salisbury)|
|Barnett, Captain Richard W.||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Mount, William Arthur|
|Barrand, A. R.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Gllmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Murray, Lt -Col. Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen).|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Glyn, Major R.||Murray, Major C. D. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Grant, James Augustus||Murray, Hon. G. (St. Rollox)|
|Bennett, T. J.||Greame, Major P. Lloyd||Murray, John (Leeds, W.)|
|Bird, Alfred||Green, A. (Derby)||Murray, William (Dumfries)|
|Blair, Major Reginald||Greenwood, Col. Sir Hamar||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Blake. Sir Francis Douglas||Greig, Colonel James William||Neal, Arthur|
|Berwick, Major G. 0.||Gretton, Colonel John||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Griggs, Sir Peter||Nicholson, R. (Doncaster)|
|Bowles, Col. H. F.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Guinness, Capt. Hon. (Southend)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Brackenbury, Captain H. L.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E. (B. St. E.)||Oman, C. W. C.|
|Bramsdon, Sir T.||Hacking, Captain D. H.||Palmer, Major G. M. (Jarrow)|
|Breese, Major C. E.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir Fred. (Dulwich)||Palmer, Brig.-Gen. G. (Westoury)|
|Briant, F.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C. (Attrincham)||Parker, James|
|Bridgeman, William clive||Hanson, Sir Charles||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Britton, G. B.||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bull, Right Hon. Sir William James||Haslam. Lewis||Philipps, Sir 0. C. (Chester)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pratt, John William|
|Campion, Colonel W. R.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hope, John Deans (Berwick)||purchase, H. G.|
|Carr, W. T.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rae, H. Norman|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Manchester)||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Raeburn, Sir William|
|Casey, T. W.||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Howard, Major S. G.||Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Rees, Captain. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)|
|Chamberlain, N (Birm., Ladywood)||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A, G.||Remnant, Col. Sir J. Farquharson|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Inskip, T. W. H.||Renwick, G.|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Clough, R.||Jameson, Major J. G.||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jesson, C.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jodrell. N. P.||Robinson. T. Stretford, Lancs.)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Johnstone, J.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Rowlands, James|
|Colvin, Brigadier-General R. B.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Royds, Lt.-Col. Edmund|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Rutherford, Col Sir J. (Darwen)|
|Courthope, Major George Loyd||Kidd, James||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Norwood)|
|Craig, Lt.-Com. N. (Isle of Thanet)||King, Commander Douglas||Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur|
|Craik, Right Hon. Sir Henry||Kinloch-Cooke. Sir Clement||Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Curzon, Commander Viscount||Knights, Captain H.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)|
|Dalziel, Sir Davison (Brixton)||Law, A. J. (Rochdale)||Seager, Sir William|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Law, Right Hon. A. Bonar (Glasgow)||Seely, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. John|
|Davidson, Major-Gen. Sir John H.||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd. Glam.)||Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)|
|Davies, Major David (Montgomery Co.)||Lindsay, William Arthur||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)|
|Davies, Sir D. S. (Denbigh)||Lloyd, George Butler||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Lorden, John William||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Davies, T. (Cirencester)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Stanley. Colonel Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan)||M' Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Dawes, J. A.||M'Guffin. Samuel||Stephenson. Colonel H. K.|
|Dennis, J. W.||Macmaster, Donald||Stevens, Marshall|
|Strauss, Edward Anthony||Walker, Colonel William Hall||Williams, A. (Conset, Durham)|
|Sugden, W. H.||Ward, Colonel L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)||Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)|
|Sutherland, Sir William||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)||Wood, Sir H. K (Woolwich, W.)|
|Sykes, Sir C. (Huddersfield)||Waring, Major Walter||Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Thomas, Sir R. (Wrexham, Denb.)||Watson, Captain John Bertrand||Yea, Sir Alfred William|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Weston, Colonel John W.||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Townley, Maximilan G.||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Tryon, Major George Clement||Whitla, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Lord E.|
|Turton, Edmund Russborough||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Talbot and Captain F. Guest.|
|Arnold, Sydney||Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Atkey, A. R.||Grundy, T. W.||Simm, Colonel M. T.|
|Banner, Sir J. S. Harmood-||Guest, J. (Hemsworth. York)||Sitch, C. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hayward, Major Evan||Smith. W (Wellingborough)|
|Brown, J. (Ayr and Bute)||Hirst, G. H.||Spencer, George A.|
|Buckley, Lt.-Col. A.||Holmes, J. S.||Spoor, E. G.|
|Cairns, John||Kelly, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Caps, Tom||Kenyon, Barnet||Sturrock, J. Leng-|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Swan, J. E. C.|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Malone, Col. C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Thomas, Brig,-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Newbould, A. E.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Onions, Alfred||Thorne, G R. (Wolverhampton. E)|
|Davies, Alfred (Clitheroe)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Tootill, Robert|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Rapar. A. Baldwin||Wignall, James|
|Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||Randall, Athelstan||Wilson, w. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Elliot, Capt. W. E. (Lanark)||Roberts, F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Finney, Samuel||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Chadwick and Mr. Sexton.|
|Graham. W. (Edinburgh)||Royce, William stapleton|
|Green, J. F. (Leicester)|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out the words "sixteen hundred," and to insert instead thereof 'the words "one thousand."
The object of this Amendment is to reduce the size of the vessels to which the attachment of wireless will be compulsory from 1,600 tons to 1,000. This will exempt at the present moment. 461 British merchant steamers that are less than 1,600 tons and not less than 1,000 tons. It will exempt a great number of small vessels where the placing of the wireless apparatus and an operator would involve a great burden, in view of the competition with which our shipping will be faced in the near future. Where obviously wireless is useful for merchant purposes the shipowner, who is a pretty good business man, may well be trusted to fit it. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent it being fitted on even motor launches, if it is so desired. I think my Amendment, however, to reduce the limit from 1,600 to 1.000 tons is reasonable. I have consulted a very important organisation of the Merchant Service Officers, and they agree with me that a 1,000-ton limit would be better than 1,600 tons, as suggested by the Department.
§ Sir OWEN PHIL1PPS
It should be remembered that the cost of fitting the 2164 wireless to small vessels is practically the same as in the. case of large vessels, and, therefore, the £700 a year or so that it will involve will be added for all time lo the running expenses of the small vessels, and will tell very heavily against them. We do not want to do anything at this time to penalise the owners of small vessels, in view of the fact that the whole country is now suffering because the number of small vessels has been so very greatly reduced during the War. Owners of small vessels even at the present time are discouraged from adding to their fleet by the mere expense of working them. They are in competition with railways, which arc carrying some 20,000,000 tons of cargo at the present time at the cost of the British taxpayer, and at less than proper freightage. At a time when this nation is spending this large amount of money on cargo freights over the railways at the cost of the taxpayers, it is very undesirable to do any thing to handicap the small vessels, which should be increasing in number in order to help to relieve the railways from the burden. I know it may be said—and, indeed, it has been said— that one foreign country at least—Spain—has made it compulsory to carry the wireless on vessels of less than 1,600 tons, but it is quite a different thing to enforce a Spanish order by moans of a British Act of Parliament. Even if the Spanish authothorities insisted on vessels of less than 1,600 tons being fitted with the wireless, 2165 I do not think it would lead to much expenditure by the owners of small Spanish vessels. It has been said, and may again be asserted, that the French have done something to apply the wireless to vessels of less than 1,600 tons, but I understand that that information is not accurate. If later on it is found that other nations are prepared to make the owners of quite small vessels incur this heavy annual expense, then it will be ample tune for us to apply the same regulations here. In my opinion, however, it would be a pure waste of money, even from a life-saving point of view, to insist on these small vessels incurring this great annual expense, and therefore I hope the Government will not accept this Amendment.
§ Mr. SEXTON
I confess I have been unable to follow the argument of the last speaker. I want to point out to the House that if you retain the words "1,600" in the Bill you will practically exclude deep-sea sailing vessels, to which the wireless would be of as much importance, if, indeed, it would not be more important, than it is to vessels that have other pio-pelling forces than mere dependence on the weather. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Bill that there are hundreds of sailing vessels to-day of under 1,600 tons that make voyages even round Cape Horn. Those who have any experience of that particular neighbourhood will, I think, agree with me—and I have had my share of experience there— that a sailing vessel which has no other propelling force than more dependence on weather requires this protection much more than the steamer, and certainly ought to be fitted with the apparatus, so that it may call to its aid in emergency any vessel within the radius of its call. There are deep-seagoing tubs to-day— floating dry-docks, they are called—running between this country and America, and will it be said that they are not entitled to have the same facilities as are enjoyed by other vessels which go on deep-sea voyages? I submit that if this Bill is carried in the way it is worded, deep-sea vessels, which are really more in want of this apparatus than ordinary steamships, would be excluded from the operation of the Bill, and 1 think it will be admitted by anyone who has practical knowledge of the sea that the vessels of which I am speaking ought, above all others, to come within the category of those it is proposed to apply this provision to.
§ Mr. CHADWICK
I did not quite catch what my hon. Friend opposite said just now with regard to the law in Spain, but I think I was responsible for the statement as to what other countries have done in this matter. I have some quotations here from the "Year Book of Wireless Telegraphy." In the first place, T find that in regard to Greek ships a law was passed in October, 1917, laying it down that Greek vessels of 300 tons dead-weight and cargo vessels of 1,000 tons dead-weight —which means probably a ship of 600 tons —must beequipped with wireless telegraphic apparatus possessing a range of 100 miles, and furnished with an emergency apparatus of not less than thirty miles range. I can make the same quotation from the law of Spain, where a Royal Decree was issued on the 20th February, 1917, providing that merchant ships of 500 tons and upwards which make long sea voyages or long coasting voyages must carry a wireless installation with an immediate range of 100 miles, as laid down in the international regulations. That is a quotation from a book published by the Marconi Company this year. What is all this hullabaloo about? We are asking that ships shall be equipped with an instrument which will cost, according to Mr. Godfrey Isaacs in the "Times" to-day, £60, and all our hands are held up in horror at the idea of saddling the poor shipowner with expense in that way. Before I was a shipowner I was a merchant sailor, and I am proud to be able to say that. To talk about £700 a year is the sheerest nonsense. If my hon. Friend tells me he is bound to do certain things according to the Merchant Shipping Act, and if the Merchant Shipping Act is wrong and this is right, then for heaven's sake let us put the Merchant Shipping Act right, but do not let us deprive the community of what is admittedly the greatest known life-saving medium at sea. I support the Amendment
Colonel LAMBERT WARD
One of the most potent arguments which it is possible to advance in favour of this alteration is that it may, under certain circumstances, save life, and, if that argument is proved, it is abolutely unanswerable. But I am assured by people who really know what they are talking about that the truth of that argument is extremely problematical. On the other hand, I think, in these days of constantly shrinking trade, the cost of installing wireless-tele- 2167 graphy ought, at any rate, to be considered. The Amendment will bring within the scope of the Bill coasting steamers and others which, practically, never under any circumstances go out of sight of land. An hon. Member remarked that they would be out of sight of land in the event of a fog. But the only meteorological condition under which a fog is possible is a dead calm, and under those circumstances the crew would have lowered their boats and been safely ashore before any other ship could have picked up their S.O.S. So I do not consider they would have been any safer had their vessel been fitted with an expensive wire-Jess installation. What is the cost of this installation likely to be? I do not deal so much with the actual cost: of the installation itself; it is with the manning of it that I am principally concerned. The Rill says that at least one wireless operator must be carried, but I think, in the long run, it would be found that one was not sufficient and that at least two would be required. Wireless telegraphy is a very highly-skilled and technical calling. Not only must the operator be highly trained, but he must also be in constant practice, otherwise his ear loses its cunning. It is, therefore, out of the question to expect the donkey man or the second engineer to take also the duties of wireless operator, and it is almost equally out of the question to expect the wireless operator to take on the duties of donkey man during his spare time.
That being the case, it means, at least, two additional hands, and on a vessel of 1.000 tons, upon which the normal crew is, perhaps, sixteen to eighteen, the additional two will be a very considerable item. Not only that, but wireless operators are certainly highly paid. I very much doubt whether, in the immediate future, especially if wages continue in their upward tendency, it will be possible to obtain wireless operators at less than about £16 a month, with all found, which is the equivalent of, at least, £25 a month of civilian wages. The cost of one operator would be approximately £300 a year and the cost of two, which I believe is the absolute minimum for effective wireless communication to be maintained, is at least £600 to £700 a year. Any additional burden which we place upon the shipping of this country is bound to be reflected in the cost of food. The only means of bringing food to this country is by means of ships 2168 If we put up the cost of running the ships. freights will go up. If freights go up the cost of food will go up in proportion. At this moment we art; absolutely at our wits end for some method of decreasing the cost of living. We are still subject to all kinds of vexatious control, although it is obvious that the attempt to control the price of food in this country is entirely dependent on our powers of controlling it at the source, which at present we do not possess. To place unnecessary and expensive restrictions upon shipping is bound in the long run to increase the cost of food, and of all commodities. Another point of view from which I should like the House to look at this, is that of the shipowner. In the opinion of many hon. Members he is a profiteer and a bloodsucker, and is not entitled to any consideration whatever. At the same time it is to the enterprise and knowledge of past generations of shipowners that this country owes its predominant position in the shipping trade which it occupied under pre-war conditions, and if we place too many restrictions upon the shipping trade it can only result in ships being sold or transferred to foreign flags. In that case the country stands to lose in every respect. The seafaring folk of this country will lose their employment because ships registered at Bergen or Hamburg will not employ Britishers but mixed crews of blacks, Dutchmen, and Dagoes, and the country will lose through the formation of shipping rings against this country, which it will be much easier for foreigners to form. In giving a very qualified blessing to this measure I ask the Government to reject this Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel WILSON
This Amendment was very luily disenssrd in Committee. I do not think the House fully realises that the Bill places an obligation on every seagoing passenger steamer, however small, to have wireless, and a passenger steamer is defined as one which carries twelve passengers or more. So we are not dealing, in this question of the reduction of tonnage, with passenger steamers, but simply with cargo tramp steamers. The Government would not hesitate for a moment to reduce the tonnage to 1,000 or to 500 if it was thought it would really be helpful in any way, either from a commercial point of view or from the point of view of assistance in saving life. The Bill draws the line at 1,600 tons because that is a well understood division between the ocean-going tramp and a ship which is not ocean-going. During the War 2169 the number of vessels which have been fitted with wireless has increased from 1,000 to 2,700, and much the greater part if not the whole of this increase will be made permanent under this Bill. If we were to reduce the tonnage from 1,600 to 1,000 the number of ships affected would be as stated by my hon. and gallant Friend, but it would, aftr all, affect ships the very large majority of which are never at sea for more than thirty hours. Vessels under 1,600 tons are practically never at sea for more than thirty hours. They are mostly vessels engaged either in the coastal trade or across the North Sea, to the coast of France or down as far as the coast of Spain. It is not a paying proposition to send these smaller ships on long voyages, and it is now the practice that even the majority of colliers are about 3,000 tons or over. If either of these Amendments was accepted the ships which would be affected would be those which really are never at sea for any lengthy period. It would merely catch purely cargo ships which seldom incur danger requiring wireless. What are the dangers? If they are ships engaged in the coastal trade they are practically always within the three-mile limit. They would have assistance from the coast if they go ashore, and if they run the risk of going ashore wireless would be of little assistance to them, because no ship would go to their assistance. The assistance must come from the shore, from the lifeboat service, and so on. The only other danger which they might meet would be the danger of collision, and as a general rule one of the two ships colliding is not so seriously damaged that it cannot come to the assistance of the other. The hon. Member for Hull spoke about the cost of the upkeep. I have already said something about that, but I would add that if you are to have wireless installed on ships such as those suggested now, it is essential that if it is to be used to the fullest possible purpose there should be two operators, two full-time men who do nothing else but look after the wireless instruments. It is not merely the cost of installation on board the ship, but it is the cost of the wages of these two officers. If the Amendment was accepted, ships of 1,000 to 1,600 tons, which seldom are more than thirty hours at sea, would practically carry their wireless operators as passengers.
I would like to refer to a strong point I raised by the hon. Member for Barrow 2170 (Mr. Chadwick), which was made upstairs and repeated to-day. It was also referred to by the hon. Member for Cheshire. I refer to the legislation in other countries. When the hon. Member for Barrow made this point upstairs I had to acknowledge that I had not the information as to legislation in other countries, but I promised that I would get it before the Report stage. I have made the fullest possible inquiries in the matter. In regard to Spain, an Order was made.
Colonel L. WARD
Does the hon. Member consider that the shipping trade of Spain is in such a flourishing condition that we can follow their example?
§ Colonel WILSON
No; I am not saying that. I am dealing with the question of legislation. An Order was made in February requiring all Spanish vessels of more than 500 tons to carry wireless installations. In France during the War vessels of 500 tons and over were under the obligation to be fitted with wireless, and all vessels so fitted have to maintain it. But if they have not been fitted during the War they will not be required to carry wireless unless they have passengers on board. In regard to Greece, we have endeavoured to make the fullest inquiries, but up to the present moment I have received no report. It is quite true that we do not base whatever we do on the Spanish mercantile marine; but at the same time we do not wish to be behind any country in any necessary steps they may take. I do ask the House to look at this matter from the point of view of practical considerations. If this Amendment is accepted it would be essential to use the proviso which is given in Clause 1. Sub-section (1). of the Bill, in order to exempt a very large majority of these ships between 1,000 tons and 1,600 tons. This Amendment would mean a very great and very heavy added burden on the smaller coastal vessels. We are not living in ordinary times now. Freights at the present moment are high, perhaps higher than we wish, but they are not going to remain high. Undoubtedly they are liable to fall. I will not prophesy when, but I hope soon. When they do fall these coastal vessels, which work on a very narrow margin, will be very severely handicapped by this added burden which is put upon small coastal cargo boats, and they will be under a very serious handicap in carrying on their trade. I ask the 2171 House not to look at the immediate present when they see freights are high, but to look to the future when we shall have to meet very severe competition from the merchant service of the world, and when we shall have to cut our freights. Then, any additional burden which is put by this House upon these ships will be a great handicap. I believe we shall meet that competition successfully, but I view with great anxiety the putting of any burdens on the Mercantile Marine which one does not consider essential, and which to a large extent are not very reasonable. Therefore, I ask the House not to accept this Amendment, but to pass the Bill as it stands.
§ Captain STANLEY WILSON
This Amendment was moved by the hon. Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken worthy), but it is strongly opposed by the hon. Member for North-West Hull (Colonel L. Ward). Therefore, it is not very easy for the average Member of Parliament to decide what course to take; but it seems to me that the advice given by the hon. Member for North-West Hull was much stronger than the advice given by the hon. Member for Central Hull.
§ Captain WILSON
Hull seems to be very divided on the question. However, the advice given by the hon. Member for North-West Hull was sounder than that given by the other hon. Members for Hull. I wonder whether those two hon. Members have consulted the shipping industry of Hull, which they are supposed to represent in this House. I was glad to hear the attitude of the Government on this matter, and I hope the hon. Members for Hull will not press the Amendment to a Division. It is unquestionable that it will add very heavily to the expenditure imposed on the shipping industry. If it was to be carried out it would be quite impossible to find enough operators in wireless to work on ships that would have to be fitted with wireless.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Bill accordingly read the third time, and passed, with Amendments.