§ Order of the Day for Second Reading read.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, he some time ago addressed a few observations to their Lordships, in the hope that the Government would be induced to reconsider the plan then before the House of Commons, and one clause to which he then alluded had since been amended. If it had been possible to induce their Lordships at this period of the Session, for the sake of the great financial interests involved in the measure, to delay its passing until the House of Commons could reconsider the subject, he would have endeavoured to produce that impression. The Government, he thought, could not be aware of the extent to which the revenue would be affected by the inconsiderate manner in which the clause had been framed. It would cause a loss of between 400,000l. and 500,000l. before the clause could be finally wound up. Under the existing law there were 160,000 seamen upon this fund, three-fourths of whom had already acquired a right to pensions. The parties engaged in the foreign trade, who were employed on the average for nine months in one year, paid 9s. Those engaged in the coasting trade averaged about six months, and paid 6s. The first class would therefore pay 27s. during three years, and the latter 18s. Under this clause, if a seaman paid 2s. in the first quarter of three years, he would save himself from forfeiting his right during that period, and the loss to the revenue would amount to 120,000l. The fund was treated in the Bill as one fund, but there was a fund to every port, and the trustees of those funds, which had been well managed, complained that an average was to be struck between them and those which had been ill managed. It appeared, also, that pensioners were to be paid on the average of the last five years, and it was to be left to the Board of Trade to determine the mode of taking the average. He 1571 thought it would have been much better if the Act had defined the rights of the parties, and he did not approve of their being left at the discretion of a board. He also objected to the ambiguity of the clause, which was so worded that in all probability many of the seamen would lose their pensions. Though by this Bill these pensions would he very burdensome to the State, yet from the reading of the clause as to the payments by the seamen, he thought it would work great hardship in individual cases. Although he did not expect that these observations would produce any effect, he trusted that the measure would operate as a caution to the Government never to permit any Bill to be introduced into the House of Commons which in the smallest degree touched on financial matters without strict inquiry.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
believed it to be utterly impracticable to have introduced a Bill, previous to the difficulties of working it being ascertained, which would not have required renewed legislation. It was true that Mr. Finlaison had shown it would have been cheaper to have continued the present system than to wind it up; but that continuance was impossible, because it implied not only an advance from the Treasury, but increased contributions by the seamen themselves, and that increase they rejected. The object of the Government, when they found that the old system must be wound up, was, that the seamen should be put as much as possible in the same situation as they would have been in had they continued under the old system, either as receivers of pensions or contributors, or rather in a bettor situation.
§ After a few words from the Earl of ELLENBOROUGH in reply,
§ On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative; Bill read 2a accordingly.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.