HL Deb 12 May 1853 vol 127 cc194-6

presented a petition from the seamen of Sunderland against the admission of foreign seamen to the coasting trade. Having recently at some length called the attention of their Lordships to the subject, on presenting a similar petition from the seamen of Hartlepool, he would not again advert to it; but he would take the opportunity of calling the attention of their Lordships, but especially the attention of the Vice-President of the Board of Trade, to an important return delivered yesterday of the number of British ships and men employed in the trade of the United Kingdom. That return gave an extraordinary result—so extraordinary that he thought it would be necessary to make some inquiries with respect to it. He had not the smallest doubt that the facts stated in the return were perfectly correct. He had the greatest confidence in the accuracy of Lieutenant Brown, by whom the return was prepared, knowing him to be an officer of great zeal and ability, who discharged his duty in a most exemplary manner; but the facts, if correct, required inquiry and explanation. It appeared by the return that in the home trade—that was the coasting trade—there had been in the last year a diminution of 1,113 seamen in sailing vessels, and a diminution of 266 seamen in steam vessels, whilst there had been an increase of 16,000 tons in sailing vessels, and a diminution of 12,000 tons in the steam vessels, Under the second head there appeared an account of the partly home and foreign trade. The aspect of that trade was particularly unsatisfactory. It appeared that there had been a falling off of 94,000 tons in the sailing tonnage, and an increase of rather more than 10,000 tons in the steam ton- nage; so that there was a total falling off in that trade of 84,000 tons, and a diminution of 1,033 in the number of men; therefore the total diminution of men in the two trades was 2,412. But that to which he particularly wished to draw attention, was the increase in the number of seamen apparently employed in the foreign trade. The increase in tonnage in the foreign trade was 78,000 tons—not a very material increase, amounting to only 3½ per cent on the total tonnage engaged in that trade; but the increase in the number of seamen in sailing vessels was 17,817, or 18¾ per cent on the total number of seamen. In steam tonnage the increase of the number of tons was a little above 22,000, and the increase in the number of men was 2,821, so that while the steam tonnage had increased the enormous amount of 35 per cent, the number of men had increased at the rate of 65 per cent. He had not the slightest doubt all the men stated in this return to have been employed in those vessels were so employed; but it was entirely contrary to reason to suppose they were seamen. His impression was, they were landsmen, working their passage to Australia and other colonies; men who had left this country for the most part never to return, and were not to be calculated upon in estimating the maritime force of the country. It was on this subject that he wished the noble Lord to make inquiry. He apprehended the return was the return of the number of men who left the country in those specified vessels; but it was most desirable to see the number of men who returned in those vessels, because on those alone could the country depend in case of emergency. He had already stated he did not at all impugn the correctness of the return, but he believed, when explained, it would appear in reality there had Leon no material addition in the force of men; but on the contrary, that these persons, who appeared as seamen, were passengers, emigrants in fact, who worked their passage out, never to return.


said, there appeared to be some discrepancy in the number of men and the increase of tonnage, and it was highly probable the interpretation suggested by the noble Earl was correct. He would take care inquiries should be made, if possible, to ascertain the number of men going and returning. At the same time, he thought the return highly satisfactory, and that the diminution of tonnage in the home trade was to be explained by the supposition that coasting vessels now made longer voyages.

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