§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Webb)
0: I beg to move, "That the Bill he now read a Second time."
This is a very small Bill designed to ratify an international agreement. It is an uncontroversial Bill which was introduced by the last Government and would then have been passed into law but for the premature Dissolution. In view of the universal agreement and the fact that commercial Members of this House have said that they wish it to be passed, I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading so that it may go upstairs to be discussed in Committee.
§ Sir LESLIE SCOTT
I agree entirely with the view of the President of the Board of Trade that this is an agreed Bill and one which the House might very well pass after very few minutes of consideration. The history of the Bill is that it has achieved agreement between the representatives of the interests concerned in this country and in other countries. In this country the representatives of the merchants and of the shipowners have had a series of meetings extending over a period of years, and the subject of the Bill, as expressed in the Schedule, has been discussed to an extent that is almost unprecedented in matters of the kind. The agreement which they have reached is represented in the detailed Clauses of and the Schedule to the Bill. But over and above that the Schedule represents, as is stated in the Preamble, an international draft convention. That draft convention has now been agreed to by a very large number of nations, and the convention to-day awaits signature at Brussels at the hands of the Belgian Government, who have acted as sponsors of this movement for the unification of maritime law. That being so, it is obvious that the Bill does not admit of consideration in detail for the purpose of criticising individual Clauses or attempting to amend this Clause or that. It represents, both from the point of view of ship and cargo, and from the point of view of different nations, a very nicely balanced consideration upon which each side, merchant and shipowner and each nation, has made concessions in order to get mutual reciprocity from the other side. It is, therefore, essentially, par excellence, an agreed Bill. From this side of the House we desire to welcome it. The Bill had its genesis under a Conservative Government. The present Government has recognised the good work of its predecessor and has brought the Bill forward to-day. The fact that Measures of this kind can, be introduced by one Government and carried forward without alteration or qualification by another Government, essentially opposite in character, is one of the best characteristics of our Parliamentary institutions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.