HC Deb 09 May 1923 vol 163 cc2367-75
Lieut.-Colonel COURTHOPE

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the supply of liquor on all vessels carrying passengers in British waters. There is an old saying that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," and, as neither I nor anyone else wishes to offend the susceptibilities or to wound the feelings of our American friends, I hope that they will take it as a compliment that some of us here are interesting ourselves in the question of the use of liquor in our waters, as they are in the question concerning the use of liquor in their waters. So far, I think I may claim that there is imitation, but the imitation is not of a servile kind, because, while the American attitude and desire is that all ships in American waters shall be dry, the intention of my Bill is to provide that passenger ships in our waters shall be wet, or, perhaps, for greater accuracy, I should say, reasonably moist. But there are further differences between the American decision, as we understand it, and the proposals of my Bill. Their decision applies to all ships. I am more modest and am limiting my proposals to vessels that come within the definition of sea-going passenger steamers under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. The effect of the American decision, if carried out as we understand it, would extend far beyond the limits of American waters or American ports. I have been particularly careful, in preparing my Bill, to limit the effect of its Clauses to British ports and British waters. It will not affect ships upon the high seas. I hope therefore that, if there are serious problems of international law involved in the American decision, I have succeeded in avoiding those difficulties entirely. I may perhaps say upon the issue of international law, although I am not attempting to argue it, that if America be entitled to carry out the decision of her Courts, then a fortiori we are entitled to carry out the much more modest and humble proposals contained in the Bill which I now bring before the House.

The Clauses of the Bill propose, first of all, to require that the owners and masters of sea-going passenger steamers, before leaving British ports, shall provide a sufficient quantity of wine, spirits, beer, and other liquors to supply the reasonable requirements of the passengers. I do not attempt to define the word "reasonable." Secondly, it requires that while the ship is within British waters the reasonable demand of the passengers for such liquor shall be supplied. Thirdly, it imposes penalties for failure to comply with the above Clauses. It applies Part 13 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, to proceedings and recovery of fines under this Bill. The rest is formal. This is not an occasion upon which it would be right for me to discuss the ethics of prohibition, or to say anything of the evils which have led some countries to adopt it or of the other evils which in some places appear to follow its adoption. It is sufficient for my purpose that this House has declined very decisively to follow the example of America. We do not want to interfere in, or even to criticise, the domestic concerns of other countries, but, when an attempt is threatened by one of them to so interpret their domestic law as to extend the area of their domestic prohibition to the high seas and to impose their domestic restrictions upon the ocean-going traffic of the world, it is quite a different matter, and it is time for the British Parliament to take some notice and some action.

Interest in this matter is not limited at all to those who want to drink on board ship, or even to those who travel across the seas. It is shared, and I believe shared profoundly, by all those who place a special value on the phrase "Freedom of the seas" in a wide sense. Probably every one of us Britons at the back of our minds, or perhaps I should say at the bottom of our hearts, has a firm conviction that we have a special interest in the freedom of the seas, which we have done so much to establish. At all events, whether we have a special or a greater interest than others, we have at least an equal interest with anyone who sails the seas, and, unless I greatly misunderstand the feelings and minds of the British public, the decision in America dealing with these matters, which was first received with amused incredulity, is now causing a profound resentment which is growing daily. I am convinced that the country is looking to this House to resist the extension of the wide interpretation of the American decision with regard to liquor on board ships in American ports and American waters even to the extent of preparing steps of retaliation, and it is in the firm conviction that moderate legislation on the lines which I propose is the most effective and least objectionable method of asserting British rights that I now crave leave to introduce this Bill.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I rise to oppose the Motion. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman began his speech, I thought that he was actuated by the very laudable intention of making sea travel more popular, and, if that were really what he meant to do, should be very much inclined to support him. When he went on a little further, I felt almost certain that this was the case, because his Bill is so drafted that there is to be a reasonable supply of wines, spirits, beer, and other liquors for the passengers, and he said nothing about those goods being supplied for payment. As the Bill is drawn, it is a question of free drinks, as well as freedom of the seas. So far as he went, the Bill seemed extremely laudable if he were trying to support British shipping, which is going through a depressed state at the present time, by encouraging people to go to sea instead of going to overcrowded football matches, but, as he went on, that appeared not to be the case, and I am afraid that the Bill, if we take it seriously—and it is much more likely to be taken seriously on the other side of the Atlantic—will be looked upon as a very childish, ill-advised attempt at reprisals. I do not look upon it in that way. I look upon it as an attempt to enliven our proceedings before we come to discuss the dull subject of international labour legislation, and I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for it.

Might I point out that the thirsty seafarer under this Bill receives little comfort, probably at the very time when he requires it most, for under the Bill as it stands the compulsory carriage of these spirits and other comforts is only to be extended within territorial waters. That means that as soon as the vessel has passed three miles beyond low water mark from our coasts, if the captain is so minded, if the owners carry out such policy, if the vessel belongs to a nation that enforces such laws, no thirsty Britisher or thirsty person of any other nationality can claim his just dues under this Bill. That means that as much drinking as is desired may take place until the vessel is three miles beyond low water mark, or, in the case of a fast vessel, until she has steamed for about 10 minutes. Therefore, after getting as much drink as he requires for 10 minutes, until some land is sighted where he can go ashore, at the end of the voyage, the unfortunate person whom the hon. and gallant Member is trying to benefit will have to go perfectly dry, and that is where his freedom of the seas comes in. It may be freedom of coastal waters for people who want a drink at sea, but it is not freedom for the seafaring voyager who wants to take long distance voyages and visit distant parts of the Empire or friends across the Atlantic.

The Bill is, therefore, quite incomplete, and there is another very serious objection to it. Under the present law, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred, namely, the Merchant Shipping Act, which, be it observed, he does not propose to amend, it is forbidden on board emigrant ships to supply spirits for payment to emigrants. The hon. and gallant Member talks here of supplying liquor to all passengers, but unless he amends the Merchant Shipping Act, he will be drawing a class distinction, and this will simply be a Bill to enable rich people to get drunk, or as drunk as they can, within the three-miles' limit, if they are so minded, but it is not going to supply drink to the poor, thirsty emigrant, who may need it a great deal more to drown his sorrows on leaving his native land.


On a point of Order. Is it not a fact that, under the Merchant Shipping Act, emigrant ships do not require a passenger licence, and so cannot be considered "passenger ships."


That is not a point of Order.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Emigrant ships, after all, in bulk carry more passengers than any other class of ship. It is very serious that this class difference should be drawn, and I am astounded at the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggesting such a thing. We have heard that on the other side of the Atlantic it is foreshadowed that there will be floating cloak rooms, as they are called, past the three-miles limit of the sea border of the United States, floating tenders, off which ships will stop, and I daresay there will be pilot vessels, into which vessels with liquor on board will dump their liquor; and I suppose that under this Bill, if it becomes law, American ships will have to stop at floating cloak rooms on this side, outside our three-miles limit, and take on board liquor. I know that in this House there are many friends of pilots, and all who travel by sea have a very friendly disposition to them, but if the pilot cutters—[An HON. MEMBER: "Pirate cutters?"] No, pilot cutters. The evil effects of liquor can be seen by witnessing the play "Treasure Island," which has been running in London, but I am dealing with pilots, not pirates, and if a pilot vessel is going to bring the first liquid refreshment which passengers receive on reaching our three-miles limit, the pilot will be received, by certain passengers at any rate, with an even greater welcome than has been the case hitherto.

The last blot on the Bill which I will mention is that there is nothing in it about the crews. What have the poor firemen down in the stokeholes done?

What have the poor sailors, freezing on the lookout, done? They are cut out of the Bill altogether. In fact, this is simply class legislation of the worst description, and it ought to be rejected on those grounds. Should the Bill be treated seriously by the House, and should it become law, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who introduces it is doing the very thing to have the proposed Regulations of the United States applied in the most stringent manner to our vessels.


Why should we be afraid of the United States? Why not stand up for your own country?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

I am not afraid of the United States, but I do know that we have got quite enough enemies and quite enough bad relations with other nations already, without trying to quarrel with our latest friends. Our relations with the United States of America are better now than they have been for over 100 years, and for heaven's sake do not let any stupid, ridiculous, petty, girlish legislation of this sort do anything that can be used by our all too many evil wishers in the world to imperil the relations between the two great, white, English-speaking democracies.

Question put, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the supply of liquor on all vessels carrying passengers in British waters.

The House divided: Ayes, 184; Noes, 128.

Division No. 143.] AYES. [4.20
Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte Burgess, S. Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East) Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew Fawkes, Major F. H.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North) Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.
Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin Buxton, Charles (Accrington) Ford, Patrick Johnston
Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W. Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R. Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W. Chapman, Sir S. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Clayton, G. C. Furness, G. J.
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R. Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.
Barnes, A. Cobb, Sir Cyril Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham
Barnett, Major Richard W. Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips Gilbert, James Daniel
Barnston, Major Harry Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale Goff, Sir R. Park
Becker, Harry Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South) Gray, Harold (Cambridge)
Bell, Lieut. Col. W. C. H. (Devizes) Craik Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hackn'y, N.)
Berry, Sir George Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North) Gretton, Colonel John
Birchall, Major J. Dearman Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln) Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.
Blades, Sir George Rowland Davies, Thomas (Cirencester) Gwynne, Rupert S.
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Dawson, Sir Philip Hacking, Captain Douglas H.
Boyd-Carpenter, Major A. Doyle, N. Grattan Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)
Brass, Captain W. Ede, James Chuter Halstead, Major D.
Brassey, Sir Leonard Ellis, R. G. Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)
Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham) England, Lieut.-Colonel A. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.) Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Harrison, F. C.
Bruford, R. Erskine-Bolst, Captain C. Hartshorn, Vernon
Bruton, Sir James Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.) Harvey, Major S. E.
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Falcon, Captain Michael Hayday, Arthur
Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill) Mercer, Colonel H. Royce, William Stapleton
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.) Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden) Ruggles-Brise, Major E.
Hennessy, Major J. R. G. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Herbert, S. (Scarborough) Molloy, Major L. G. S. Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney
Hewett, Sir J. P. Molson, Major John Elsdale Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.
Hiley, Sir Ernest Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J. Sheffield, Sir Berkeley
Hirst, G. H. Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury) Shepperson, E. W.
Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy Murchison, C. K. Sitch, Charles H.
Hood, Sir Joseph Nall, Major Joseph Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Hopkins, John W. W. Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley) Sparkes, H. W.
Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.) Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge) Spears, Brig-Gen. E. L.
Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K. Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield) Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.
Hudson, Capt. A. Nield, Sir Herbert Stanley, Lord
Hughes, Collingwood Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John Steel, Major S. Strang
Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis O'Grady, Captain James Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)
Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.) Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth
Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove) Paget, T. G. Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S. Parker, Owen (Kettering) Strauss, Edward Anthony
James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert Pennefather, De Fonblanque Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath) Perring, William George Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser
Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor) Peto, Basil E. Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.
Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul Pilditch, Sir Philip Tillett, Benjamin
Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Preston, Sir W. R. Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.
Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd) Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G. Wallace, Captain E.
Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham) Privett, F. J. Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)
Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel Raeburn, Sir William H. Wells, S. R.
King, Captain Henry Douglas Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.
Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement Remer, J. R. White, Col. G. D. (Southport)
Lamb, J. Q. Remnant, Sir James Wilson, Lt.-Col. Leslie O. (P'tsm'th, S.)
Leach, W. Rentoul, G. S. Wise, Frederick
Lorden, John William Reynolds, W. G. W. Wolmer, Viscount
Lorimer, H. D. Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend) Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward
Lougher, L. Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey) Yerburgh, R. D. T.
Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon) Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
Lumley, L. R. Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm Robertson-Despencer, Major (Isl'gt'n W.) Lieut.-Colonel Courthope and Sir
Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.) Rogerson, Capt. J. E. W. Davison.
Margesson, H. D. R. Roundell, Colonel R. F.
Adams, D. Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Ritson, J.
Adamson, Rt. Hon. William Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland) Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hardie, George D. Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Ammon, Charles George Harris, Percy A. Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)
Attlee, C. R. Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart) Saklatvala, S.
Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith) Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Salter, Dr. A.
Berkeley, Captain Reginald Hill, A. Scrymgeour, E.
Bonwick, A. Hinds, John Shakespeare, G. H.
Briant, Frank Hodge, Rt. Hon. John Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)
Broad, F. A. Hogge, James Myles Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Buchanan, G. Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy) Simpson, J. Hope
Buckle, J. Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East) Smith, T. (Pontefract)
Burnie, Major J. (Bootle) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Snell, Harry
Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.) Jones, Morgan (Cacrphilly) Snowden, Philip
Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North) Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon) Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)
Cairns, John Kirkwood, D. Sullivan, J.
Cape, Thomas Lansbury, George Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)
Chapple, W. A. Lee, F. Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)
Charleton, H. C. Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)
Clarke, Sir E. C. Linfield, F. C. Thornton, M.
Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock) Lowth, T. Tout, W. J.
Collison, Levi Lunn, William Trevelyan, C. P.
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lyle-Samuel, Alexander Wallhead, Richard C.
Davison, J. E. (Smethwick) M'Entee, V. L. Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)
Dudgeon, Major C. R. McLaren, Andrew Warne, G. H.
Duffy, T. Gavan Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J. Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)
Dunnico, H. Marshall, Sir Arthur H. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Edmonds, G. Maxton, James Weir, L. M.
Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty) Middleton, G. Westwood, J.
Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.) Millar, J. D. Wheatley, J.
Evans, Ernest (Cardigan) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)
Fairbairn, R. R. Mosley, Oswald White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)
Falconer, J. Muir, John W. Williams, David (Swansea, E.)
Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L. Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen) Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
Foot, Isaac Murray, John (Leeds, West) Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western) Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central) Oliver, George Harold Winfrey, Sir Richard
Gray, Frank (Oxford) Paling, W. Wintringham, Margaret
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Ponsonby, Arthur Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)
Grigg, Sir Edward Potts, John S. Wright, W.
Groves, T. Pringle, W. M. R.
Grundy, T. W. Rees, Sir Beddoe TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth) Richards, R. Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy and
Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Riley, Ben Mr. T. Johnston.

Resolutions agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Lieut.-Colonel Courthope, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John Norton-Griffiths, Captain Erskine-Bolst, Sir Clement Kinloch-Cooke, Lieut.-Colonel Campion, Major Sir Keith Fraser, Mr. Gershom Stewart, Colonel Gretton, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Frederick Hall, Lieut.-Colonel James, Mr. Hohler, and Sir William Davison.