HC Deb 06 December 1926 vol 200 cc1841-4

I beg to move, in page 6, line 16, to leave out the words, "habitually used as a seagoing ship."

The object of the Amendment is practically to bring the Clause back into the form it occupied when it left this House on Second Reading and went to Committee. To the shipping industry the Clause, as it then stood, was perfectly satisfactory and they did not put forward any opposition to the Bill. In Committee an hon. Member moved an Amendment that only ocean-going vessels should be excluded from the Act. The Parliamentary Secretary did not accept that Amendment because the hon. Member's definition of an ocean-going vessel was rather vague. He said that it was a vessel that crossed the ocean. The Parliamentary Secretary introduced a further Amendment, which is now included in the Bill. According to a judgment read by the Parliamentary Secretary as the definition of a sea-going vessel, "a sea-going vessel does not mean a ship which might go to sea or is capable of going to sea, but a ship that does go to sea." An Amendment inserted in a Bill based upon a definition of that character is not by any means satisfactory to shipping interests. As far as I can gather from that definition, we shall be in this position, if this Bill becomes law in its present form, that vessels which go to sea or are preparing to go to sea will be exempt from the Act, but vessels such as steam lighters, tugs, ferry boats and other harbour, dock and river craft, win have to come under the regulations enacted by this Biil. It is not fair to place that hardship upon this type of vessel, many of them owned by small owners. There is no effective appliance that has been invented, so far as I know, that will deal with the small class of boiler in these vessels. The argument used by the Minister of Health with regard to existing houses which emit smoke, that it would be difficult to ask people to alter their fireplaces in favour of other appliances, applies equally to tugs, lighters and other harbour, dock and river craft. An argument, which has been effective, has been advanced to the effect that from the terrace of this House certain craft can be seen emitting great Volumes of smoke. The explanation is simple. They have to lower their funnel to go under Westminster Bridge, and they have to do that when they are approaching the bridge. I defy anyone to bring forth an appliance that will obviate the emission of smoke in these circumstances. Whatever you may do in the way of fining, you will never be able to remedy that evil. But I submit that this Clause will create a great hardship amongst the smaller owners of these particular craft. The difficulty is very great indeed, for the man who is firing the boiler has often many other duties to perform. He will have to be specially trained to deal with this matter; it is a question whether it can he done, and heavy expense will have to be incurred by owners of these small craft, which will make it really a hardship. I appeal to the House to accept this Amendment.

Lieut.-Colonel HENEAGE

I beg to second the Amendment.

In doing so I would like to call attention to the position of lighters and tugs. These lighters and tugs are probably plying in part in salt water and yet, according to the definition, do they "go to sea"? There will be a great deal of confusion. What small craft can be called "sea-going craft"? Before he finally passes this Clause the right hon. Gentleman should take a look round the docks and see what small craft are to be affected. If he does so, he will see many small interests affected and, I think, he will then do his best to exempt a great many of these small tugs and lighters, and possibly barges, which go perhaps, beyond a river. I hope he will see his way to meet us in this matter.


I do not think my hon. Friend need be under any apprehension as to the difficulty of interpreting the term "sea-going vessel." That was defined so long ago as the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and I do not know that any practical difficulty has arisen. What the Clause does now, as amended in Committee, is to bring under the operation of the Bill craft which ply in harbours, rivers and other inland waters. I think that it is very reasonable that it should. A great deal of nuisance is created by smoke unnecessarily emitted from these craft on inland waters. I think the hon. Member who moved the Amendment hardly realised how small is the change the Bill makes in the present situation. These craft are already subject to the law if they emit "black" smoke; they are not subject if they emit smoke which is not "black." The hon. Member says no effective means have been found, but under Sub-section (3) of Section 1 they can plead that they have used the best practicable means to prevent smoke, and that is provided to be a good defence. I think there is really very little change made by the Bill. It does give some additional powers; it does give power to inflict heavier fines where offences are committed. I do not think it is necessary for my hon. Friend to press his Amendment.


I hope my hon. Friend will press his Amendment, be- cause this seriously concerns the port of Hull. Owners of tugs, ferry boats and craft on an estuary three or four miles wide may be liable to be fined for emitting a certain amount of smoke. It may be said that there has been no certain protest on the part of shipowners against this Clause, but then, of course, shipowners, generally speaking, own oceangoing vessels, and people owning this smaller sort of craft are not so well organised or so wealthy as to be able to make effective protests. Shipowners generally may have no objection to this Clause, but the smaller people would make it known that they have if they could make themselves heard.

Amendment negatived.