HL Deb 23 June 1876 vol 230 cc317-35

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the object of the Bill, which had come up from the other House of Parliament after having been subjected to very careful consideration and amendment, was to provide additional security for the lives of our sailors from the avoidable risks which attended their calling. He was perfectly aware that in dealing with the matters embraced in this Bill—namely, the questions of unseaworthy ships and of overloading—the Government were only dealing with a part of a very large question; but that part was by no means an unimportant part, and they felt that it was better to confine themselves to it for the present rather than to extend the area and operation of the Bill to a large extent. Discipline, wages, advance notes, insurance, and other matters of a kindred character were branches of the question on which, no doubt, legislation was much needed; and he was far from saying that it would not be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to take them into consideration at a future time if they should be fortunate enough to carry through Parliament in the present Session the Bill which now stood before their Lordships for second reading. He was aware also that in the opinion of some persons it was advisable to consolidate all the Acts relating to Merchant Shipping; but he could not help thinking that a Bill by which that consolidation might be attempted—involving as it would the consideration of some 700 or 800 clauses—would open up many points on which great difference of opinion would be found to exist, and consequently that to embark in such an undertaking at present would be to seriously endanger the passing of any measure relating to the subject during the present Session. Their Lordships would bear in mind that though this Bill had been carried through the other House with all the despatch possible in so grave a matter, and on which there had been so many and such lengthened discussions, it was now the 23rd day of June when he was moving the second reading in their Lordships' House. Again, he thought he was quite justified in saying that no subject required greater caution in legislation than this of our Mercantile Marine, in which so many interests were mixed up, and which so concerned the trade and commerce of the country. Certain statistics would show their Lordships and the country the magnitude of the capital and labour embarked in our shipping trade. First as to the value of the Imports and Exports for the year:—In 1875the total value of Imports and Exports into and from the United Kingdom was:—Imports—merchandize, £373,939,577; gold and silver, £33,264,789. Exports—merchandize, British and Irish produce, £223,465,963; Foreign and Colonial ditto, £58,146,360; gold and silver, £27,628,042. Total, £716,444,731. The total tonnage of shipping entered and cleared, with cargoes and in ballast at ports in the United Kingdom in the foreign trade and in the coasting trade was:—Foreign Trade—Entered, 19,039,928 tons cargo, 3,653,238 tons ballast—together, 22,693,163 tons; cleared, 20,413,739 tons cargo, 3,169,936 tons ballast—together, 23,583,675 tons. Coasting Trade—Entered, 22,944,265 tons cargo, 10,968,737 tons ballast—together, 33,913,002 tons; cleared, 20,674,934 tons cargo, 8,906,654 tons ballast—together, 29,581,588 tons. Total, 83,072,866 tons cargo, 26,698,562 tons ballast—together, 109,771,428 tons. The number of men in British ships in 1874, the date of the latest Return, was 203,606. This was exclusive of masters. If the frequency of the voyages made by some ships was taken into account, the number of men annually exposed to the dangers of the sea was very large indeed. He might remark that in 1872 the number of emigrants was 251,871;and, besides, there were the ordinary passengers not included in any of these Returns. Parliament possessed one great advantage in dealing with this subject arising from the fact that the question itself was entirely removed from the arena of Party conflicts, and they could approach it with a freedom of consideration which they were not always able to apply to questions which excited strong political feeling. It had long been a subject of legislation by every Party that had been in power. Commencing 40 years ago, successive Governments had introduced Shipping Bills. In 1836 a Committee was appointed to report on the cause of Wrecks, and in 1843 there was another Committee on the same subject, most of whose recommendations had been since carried out. In 1846 there was important legislation as to wreck and salvage, and as to the survey of steamers. In 1847 and 1848, and 1849 the Emigrants and Passenger Acts were amended. In 1849 the Navigation Laws were repealed; in 1850 the Marine Department of the Board of Trade was established; and in 1852 the Emigrants Acts were consolidated. In 1854 a most important measure of consolidation was brought in by the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cardwell) and carried through both Houses. Subsequently, that Act was amended in consequence of the Report of Mr. Lindsay's Committee; in 1867 Mr. Milner Gibson brought in a Bill; and in 1867 the Board of Trade introduced a measure for providing crews with better accommodation on board ship. In 1868 he himself had a Consolidating Bill drawn and prepared, but the country was deprived of his services before he could carry it through. And here a sense of justice prompted him to bear testimony to the readiness with which the Permanent Secretary (Mr. Thomas Henry Farrer) and staff of the Board of Trade carried out as far as in them lay every effort in the direction of affording greater security to the lives exposed to sea risks. He did this because he had read most unjust charges of red-tapeism which were levelled against these gentlemen. Well, in 1871 the noble Lord opposite (Lord Carlingford) brought in and carried a small measure. In 1873 the publication of a remarkable book by Mr. Plimsoll on the Mercantile Marine and on Shipwrecks and other casualties by sealed to the issuing of a Royal Commission; but without waiting for the Report of that Commission the noble Lord brought in and carried a Bill, to which, had the feelings of the country not been excited on this subject, it might have been difficult for him to obtain the assent of Parliament. In 1874 the Royal Commission reported; but there was no time for any legislation in the Session of that year. He now came to 1875, when his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade brought in a measure which he was unable to carry in its entirety. That fact having been perceived in time, his right hon. Friend towards the close of the Session of 1875 introduced a smaller Bill—one dealing with some of the more important points on which legislation was required. That Bill passed into an Act; but the Act was only temporary in its character—it would expire on the 1st of October in the present year. The experience of its working had proved of great advantage to the Government in the preparation of the present Bill, which repealed the Act of 1875 and also repealed so much of the Acts of 1871 and 1873 as related to unseaworthy ships. The Bill now under their Lordships' consideration would contain the whole of the law relating to unseaworthy ships. Its first important clause was Clause 4, which re-enacted in a permanent form a provision of the Bill of 1875, and laid down the principle that it was a breach of the Criminal Law for any one to send or to attempt to send to sea a British ship in such unseaworthy condition that the life of any person was likely to be thereby endangered—to do so was declared a misdemeanour. Although it might be true that there had not been a great number of convictions under that provision in the Act of 1875, the clause might have been very beneficial in its deterrent effects. Clause 5 provided for the obligation of the shipowner to the crew that he would use all reasonable means to insure the seaworthiness of the ship for the voyage contemplated:—it made that obligation a part of every contract, whether express or implied. The clause, consequently, gave the relatives of a lost crew a right to proceed under Lord Campbell's Act. Clause 6 gave the Board of Trade power to detain ships if, by reason of the defective condition of her hull, equipments, or machinery, or of improper loading, a ship was unfit to proceed to sea without danger to human life, and prescribed the mode of procedure in respect of detention. By Clause 7 a new Court, called a Court of Survey, would be constituted, to which the owner or master of a ship detained might promptly appeal against the action of the officers of the Board of Trade. The establishment of this Court would get rid of the delay which arose in getting certain cases heard by local Courts of Admiralty. Clause 10 would make the Board of Trade liable to the shipowners for damages and costs for unjustifiable detention of a ship. Clause 11 was an important one. Up to last year the only means by which seamen could raise the question of the unseaworthiness of a ship was by first deserting her. Clause 11 would enable them to make a complaint, and have the seaworthiness of the ship inquired into, without any such process; the complainant giving security for costs. Clause 13 remedied a wrong which had been sometimes experienced. By the Merchant Shipping Acts and the Passengers Acts, passenger or emigrant ships could not proceed to sea without certificates of the proper officers as to their sufficiency in every respect required by those Acts; and these certificates had sometimes been refused: this clause gave to the shipowner a right of appeal to the Court of Survey constituted by the Bill. Clause 14 empowered the Board of Trade to refer difficult cases, on appeal, to scientific referees. Clauses 15 to 18 contained special provisions in relation to passenger steamers and emigrant ships. Clause 19 contained a provision respecting the stowage of grain cargoes similar to those contained in the Act of last year; and Clauses 20 and 21 contained provisions of considerable importance with regard to deck cargoes. Clause 20 provided that if any British or foreign other than home trade ships, as defined by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, carried as deck cargo, timber, stores, or other goods, all dues payable on the ship's tonnage should be payable as if there were added to the ship's registered tonnage the tonnage of the space occupied by such goods at the time at which such dues became payable. Clause 21, which imposed a penalty on ships carrying deckloads of timber in winter, was not in the Bill when first introduced in the other House. The point with which it dealt was one of considerable difficulty, and the Government were rather unwilling to touch it; but it was suggested that the difficulty might be overcome, and it was urged, and not unreasonably, that as the Canadian Legislature had found itself able to deal with it, Her Majesty's Government might deal with it in the same way. Accordingly, the Government framed a clause strictly in accordance with the Canadian precedent. In the Canadian clause an exception was made in favour of deck loads only 3 feet high and composed of light timber. The Government introduced that exception in Clause 21, and on one division maintained it: but on a subsequent division it was struck out by a majority of 18 or something like that: therefore, the Government were not responsible for the clause as it at present stood. Clauses 22, 23, and 24 provided that there should be deck and load lines; but, following the Report of the Royal Commission, they did not define what that line was to be—that was left to the shipowner. Clause 25, making the provisions of this Bill as to detention applicable to foreign ships, was inserted during the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons. It was resolved to put British ships and foreign ships loading in British ports under the same regulations as to overloading. Accordingly, this was inserted; but a sub-section of the clause provided that when a foreign ship had been provisionally detained for over-loading a copy of the order or provisional order of detention should be served on the Consular officer of the State to which the ship belonged, who might appoint a person to inspect the ship in company with the officer of the Board of Trade. If they agreed the ship would be released or detained as the case might be; if they differed the action of the Board of Trade was sustained, but an appeal was given to the master or owner to the Court of Survey. Subsequent clauses appointed Wreck Commissioners for investigating shipping casualties, and gave powers for the summoning of assessors in cases where special knowledge was required; and laid down rules of procedure. The powers of the Commissioners were extended to inquiries into cases of stranded or missing ships. Among the "Miscellaneous" clauses he might mention two—the 33rd, which provided that if the Government of any foreign State was desirous that any of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876, should apply to the ships of that State, Her Majesty might by Order in Council direct that they should so apply:—and the 34th, by which the Act was declared not to apply to ships on inland waters of Canada. The principle of the measure was to provide, as far as possible, for the security of the ships engaged in the commerce of this country, without relieving the shipowner of the responsibility of seeing that his ship did not go to sea in an unseaworthy state. These were the principal enactments of the Bill. He did not wish to exaggerate the probable effects of this legislation; but he thought he was justified in hoping that as it was framed after the Government, Parliament, and the country had given such long and earnest attention to the question, it would considerably mitigate the avoidable dangers of the sea without doing injury to or unnecessarily interfering with the shipping trade and the commercial interests of this Kingdom.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord President.)


said, there was little to be said about the Bill, important as it was, because, so far as it was directly intended to protect life at sea, it substantially embodied the provisions of the temporary Act of last year. When that Act was under consideration in their Lordships' House he took the liberty of expressing an opinion that there was no reason why it should not be a permanent measure. He was glad the Government had proceeded on the same lines as those on which that Act was framed, and had not proposed a general and compulsory survey of all ships. The Royal Commission went into the merit of the two systems, and gave its approbation to that adopted by the late Government. He agreed in the noble Duke's estimate of the value of certain improvements introduced by the Bill, especially that giving a ready and competent Court of Appeal, and that appointing Wreck Commissioners with enlarged powers of inquiry. With respect to the question of survey, he should like to call attention to the provisions as to costs and compensation in Clauses 10 and 11. As the Bill now stood, in a case in which it should be decided that a ship was, as a matter of fact, not in an unsafe state, the Board of Trade would be liable to all the costs and to compensation for detention. If he was not mistaken, that was not the form in which the clauses were originally introduced by the Government. It was obvious that it might be the duty of the Board to detain a ship for any reasonable and probable cause, and yet that the result of the inquiries might be that, as a matter of fact, the ship was not so unsafe as to warrant her detention under the Act; but it did not follow that the Department of the Executive which performed that duty should be bound to pay the whole cost and the whole compensation for that detention. He thought it a question whether that was not going too far, and whether it would not hamper the hands of the Board of Trade. Under Clause 11, relating to complaints made by sailors of the unseaworthiness and danger of their ship, if the complaint turned out to be inaccurate, and that the ship was not at the time of such complaint unsafe within the meaning of the Act, the complainant would be liable to pay to the Board of Trade all such costs and compensation as the Board had incurred. But he thought the sailors should not be liable to pay costs and compensation in a case where there was reasonable and probable cause for detention, although in the end it might turn out that the ship was not so unsafe as to warrant her detention. This was a more important matter under this measure than it was under any former Act, because the newly-constructed Court of Appeal, if it were brought into operation, would inevitably create many causes of delay and large claims for compensation, which might be much greater than the costs of the proceeding. He thought the Government would do well to modify this part of the Bill by inserting that this liability should not be incurred except where the complaint was made and the ship detained "without reasonable and probable cause." He now wished to say a few words as to that part of the Bill which dealt with foreigners and with the Colonies. Foreigners were affected by the Bill in two ways—and he might say at once that, whether right or wrong, that was an extremely novel piece of legislation. As far as he knew, it was quite unknown to our law, and he thought it likely to raise many doubtful questions. The Government would probably admit that the clauses dealing with foreigners were not introduced into the Bill with the object of saving life on board foreign ships, because the Government could not feel responsible for the lives of foreign seamen. These clauses were introduced entirely for the sake of putting upon a foreign shipowner a weight similar to that which was put upon his British rival. A foreigner was affected by the Bill in two ways—first, when he attempted to leave a British port in a ship overloaded or improperly loaded; and, secondly, when he came into a British port with a deck load during certain months in the year, or exceeded the limits laid down by the Bill. The case of leaving a British port seemed to him to be less difficult than the others, but he could very well conceive that officials of the Board of Trade would find considerable difficulty in using the powers entrusted to them, and that international complications might arise. If we imagined what was likely to happen—namely, the detention of an American ship at Liverpool, while a British ship at that port was allowed to proceed on her voyage, he believed that international difficulties would arise, and he should like to know what view the Foreign Office and the noble Earl (Earl Derby) took of that matter. In the case of a foreign vessel arriving at a British port the difficulty would be still greater. There the offence created by the Bill was an offence committed in the foreign country where the ship was loaded. The date adopted, prohibiting deck loads between the 1st October and the 16th March, was particularly open to question. It was taken from the Canadian Act, and might be correct in relation to the Atlantic trade; but it certainty was not correct in regard to trade with Norway and other European countries. It was imagined by some persons that the Imperial Parliament had not still a legal right to legislate for the Colonies; but the result of the very able controversy which had been carried on in the public Press more than in Parliament, and which he presumed no one in that House would attempt to revive, had shown that it was illusory to suppose that the Imperial Parliament did not still possess a right to legislate for the Colonies. He doubted whether Canada wished to deprive her ships of the enormous advantages which they now possessed as British ships. But while the right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Canada was undoubted, the exercise of that right was a very different thing. It was a right which should be exercised only with the greatest caution. With regard to deck loading, the Canadian law, which till now we had looked up to with satisfaction and admiration, was satisfied with saying that deck cargoes from the 1st of October to the 16th of March should be prohibited, save and except deck loads not exceeding 3 feet high and consisting of light timber. That Act had been in operation for some time, and he was informed that ships built and loaded in accordance with its provisions were perfectly safe. This was the original provision of the clause; but in consequence of the defeat of the Government on this proposal, as mentioned by the noble Duke, the clause had assumed its present shape, and our law came into direct collision with the law of Canada on this matter. Such a conflict of laws should not be allowed to arise without such a necessity as he did not believe existed in the present case. He hoped the Government would amend the Bill in this particular. He wished to know how Clause 31, which authorized the detention of overladen ships, was to be enforced in foreign ports where no machinery for carrying its provisions into effect existed. The clause enabled certain officers to detain a ship, and if the master proceeded to sea in defiance of such intervention he was liable to a penalty of £100. How was a detention abroad to be followed by the same consequences that would arise at home? He did not see how the enactments could be made applicable in foreign ports. He also desired to point out that there were many vessels which sailed as British ships employed in foreign commerce which never touched at a British port at all, and which were chiefly manned by foreign seamen; and he failed to understand how the provisions of the Act were to be put into force with regard to vessels of that character. In his opinion the noble Duke had in no way exaggerated the importance of the questions which came either within or without the Bill; and while he by no means complained of the Government for not having found it possible to deal with the questions which were without the measure, and which were almost if not quite as vital to the safety of our ships as those which were within it, he was glad to hear that the Government had those questions, especially those that related to the character and the discipline of the crews, the system of marine insurance and of advance notes, under their consideration. He need not detain their Lordships longer than to express his great hope that the life-saving clauses of this Bill would be zealously administered by the officials of the Board of Trade, and that the Department would be sufficiently supplied with officers competent to discharge the duties cast upon them, which, if properly performed, would do much to diminish the cases of unseaworthiness and the loss of life which had sometimes thrown disgrace upon the general high character of the British Mercantile Marine.


expressed his great satisfaction that the Government had introduced this Bill; and he earnestly hoped it would become law without delay. He agreed, however, that the clauses regarding deck loads would require very careful consideration. The clauses referring to deck load and load line were of great importance; but he thought that these also would in Committee require careful consideration. As they now stood he was afraid they would be of hardly any value.


congratulated the Government upon having introduced this measure, and on having been able to bring it up to that House. He thought they had acted most wisely in leaving the questions of marine insurance and discipline for future consideration, because had they attempted to deal with such large subjects by the present measure they would have greatly complicated the matter and delayed the passing of the Bill. The provisions of the measure, if properly carried out, would undoubtedly do much to improve the seaworthiness of our ships; but, at the same time, he must state that he had received Petitions for presentation to that House from many of the leading steamship owners—very respectable men, possessing over 800,000 tons of shipping—in which they objected very strongly to the terms of the 4th clause, which made the sending unseaworthy ships to sea a misdemeanour. They objected that the clause introduced a novel and entirely objectionable principle into our laws, inasmuch as that by its terms a man might be held criminally responsible, notwithstanding he had been guilty of no personal negligence. He thought those gentlemen had fair ground for their complaint, because he had always understood it to be a grand principle of law that it was for the accuser to prove the guilt of the party charged with an offence, and not that the accused should be called upon to establish his innocence; and the Petitioners said that such exceptional legislation as to shipowners could only be justified by some very extreme necessity. It was admitted that the great body of shipowners were upright and just dealing men, who by their enterprize and intelligence had added much to the prosperity of the country. He trusted that when the Bill got into Committee it would be considerably modified in this respect, because as it now stood it certainly appeared to be very unfair. The provision relating to foreign ships, be thought, should have formed the subject of Treaties, or at least should not have been introduced into this measure without previous arrangements with foreign States. With regard to Canada, which had raised a strong objection to the application of the Bill to them, it was well known that the inhabitants of the Dominion possessed an enormous amount of shipping, and it was, therefore, of very great consequence that nothing should be done by the Imperial Parliament that could interfere unduly with the interests of Canadian shipowners. He did not deny the power of Parliament to legislate as it pleased on the subject, but he strongly deprecated the adoption of any course which could have the effect of compelling Canadian shipowners to transfer themselves and their capital to the United States of America. He could not help fearing that the clause in the Bill which dealt with this branch of the subject was drawn not so much with a view to save life as to gratify the jealousy of English shipowners in reference to the shipping business carried on from Canadian ports. The clause, which implied the application of the Bill to Canadian shipping other than that in inland waters, had been introduced somewhat hastily in the other House, and he hoped it would be carefully considered in Committee. His only desire was that the Bill should receive full and fair consideration in order to its being passed during the present Session. He should not, therefore, take up the time of the House on several points of detail which he thought deserved consideration. One of these points was the granting of advance notes—a system which he could not but regard as injurious and mischievous alike to shipowners and sailors; but, under all the circumstances, he thought it best to defer bringing the question before Parliament until some future time when the whole subject of discipline in the Navy might have to be discussed.


said, that nothing could be fairer than the way in which the Bill had been commented upon, and nothing could be more satisfactory than the general measure of approval with which it had been received by the noble Lords who had preceded him in debate. Several of the questions which had been raised by the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) would be better dealt with by the noble Lord upon the Woolsack than by himself; but he would draw attention to that very large Colonial question which had been touched upon by the noble Lord opposite and by the noble Duke. The noble Lord was perfectly right when he said that this Bill affected not only British ships, but those of Canada also; but whilst there were serious considerations in reference to humanity, there were also considerations almost as important on the other hand. The ques- tion that had been raised would affect the whole Dominion of Canada, with its 4,000,000 of population, and it was most difficult to bring to one's mind how large a stake the Dominion had in this matter. His noble Friend opposite who preceded him in the Colonial Office (the Earl of Kimberley) would remember perfectly well what the condition of Canada was in 1867 as compared with the state of things that existed now. Canada had since that time grown largely in wealth and power, and in everything that created national prosperity. It was now one of the largest shipowning countries in the world. It had about 1,200,000 tons of shipping, worth from £7,000,000 to £8,000,000;and there were also 1,000 shipmasters, 2,000 officers and not less than 20,000 seamen. These figures were also year by year steadily growing. Canada was a colony of whose commercial marine this country might be justly proud. He was also satisfied that, whether they looked to public men or to private individuals, the Canadians were equally proud of their connection with this country. He had watched with great satisfaction the course that had been taken in Canada with regard to this particular question. It had been his duty to read every word of the debates which had taken place in the Canadian House of Commons, and he could bear testimony not only to the ability, but also to the extremely good and loyal feeling which had been displayed. They were above all loyal. Though they felt that their interests had been injuriously affected by certain parts of this measure, there never had been the slightest doubt that the English Parliament and Government would accept every reasonable objection, and deal with the matter fairly and reasonably. The conduct of the Canadian Government also had been loyal in the highest degree; and when questions had been raised which it would have been undesirable to discuss they, with temperance and forbearance, put them aside for the time and dealt with Her Majesty's Government upon the best footing. He would not say that there were not difficulties connected with the question, but he was satisfied that with patience and forbearance on both sides, all those difficulties were susceptible of solution. Some misapprehension was, he thought, entertained as to the scope of the Bill. Allusion had been made to the 4th clause, which imposed the penalty attending the crime of misdemeanour on the shipowner for sending an unseaworthy ship to sea. But the answer was that that was the existing law; such a penalty was imposed at this moment under the legislation of last year. By the Act of last year the Legislature marked its sense of the gravity of the offence of the shipowner who sent his ship to sea in an unseaworthy condition; but it ought to be borne in mind that the Bill provided this safeguard—namely, that there could be no prosecution under it except with the consent of the Board of Trade. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Somerset) had pointed out the inconvenience to which the Canadian shipowners would be put in having to bring witnesses to this country, while the English ship owner who thought himself aggrieved could have his case brought before Parliament. Primâ facie there was much to be said for the Canadian shipowner; but, in the first place, the Canadian shipowners who were likely to fall under the penal provisions of the Bill were very few in number. From all he could ascertain of the Canadian Commercial Marine, he could not doubt that it was so well found and the ships were so seaworthy that it was extremely improbable any Canadian shipowner would come under the clause referred to; and even if they did, of this he was certain—that the Act would be administered with that amount of caution and, so to say, with that delicacy of touch which was absolutely necessary in the administration of such a law. He was, however, far from saying that at a later stage there might not be further securities introduced without at all affecting the principle of the Bill, and which would serve to remove the apprehensions it appeared Canadian shipowners now entertained, and show them that their interests were practically safe in dealing with this matter. Allusion had been made by the noble Lord who spoke earlier in the debate (Lord Carlingford) to the subject of deck loading. Now the Canadian law on the subject he (the Earl of Carnarvon) believed to be a satisfactory law—namely, that at a certain season no ship should go to sea with a deck load exceeding 3 feet of light timber. That rule had worked well in the interests of humanity, and many ships had been built with a view to the adoption and carrying out of the provision in question. It was a consideration of those facts which induced Her Majesty's Government to adopt the Canadian law; but unfortunately that decision was reversed elsewhere without, as he believed, a due consideration of the true bearings of the Canadian law, the results which that law had attained, the real interests at stake, or the true interests of Canada. It would, he believed, be, under the circumstances, within the province of their Lordships' House to reconsider that point, and to see how far that particular matter might be more satisfactorily dealt with. Not only was the clause open to objection as setting aside the Canadian law, but as opening a way to all sorts of evasions, and affording no securities for the protection of life at sea. Another point had been alluded to—namely, the inequality which, under Clause 25, was supposed to subsist as between foreign and British ships. The inequality was said to be this—that while the foreign ship might be detained in port for improper loading the British ships might be detained not only for overloading, but for unsoundness. He did not deny that there was a seeming inequality on that point, and he was not unacquainted with the opinions of the Colonies on the subject, or of that of English shipowners. It was just such a matter as might arise in the construction of such a Bill, pregnant as it was with difficulties which it was hard to avoid. They must trust to the caution and delicacy with which the Act would be administered; and he fully concurred in what the noble Duke the President of the Council had said as to the ability and prudence of the permanent officials of the Board of Trade. The chief difficulty which arose was as to the constitutional question which had been raised as to how far it was possible to draw a distinction in this matter between England and her colonial possessions. He agreed with what had been said that it was undesirable that the discussion which had recently taken place in the newspapers on that subject should be resuscitated in that House. The question was of such a grave and delicate nature that it ought to be discussed—if it was at all necessary to discuss it—he was going to say—on paper, so that no question might arise even as to a chance expression. He believed the shipowners of Canada knew they received advantages from the connection of the Dominion with this country, and would be as loath—as he would be—to surrender those advantages. The question involved was a great and fundamental one—a question which was inseparable from the maintenance of so great an Empire, but approached temperately and in a proper spirit, he believed it was capable of a satisfactory solution.


said, he should be sorry if, in the discussion of the Bill, anything should have been said tending to raise a controversy on such a subject; he supposed there could be no doubt that there was not to be one law for British and another for Canadian shipping, and that there was for the Queen's subjects only one flag all over the world. The Bill raised many questions of administration, of a complicated and difficult character, which could only be considered in Committee, but he was sure their Lordships would examine the clauses with a desire to arrive at a common understanding.


would be glad to hear from the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the clauses relating to foreign shipping had been brought to the particular notice of the Government of foreign countries, and whether there was any reason to believe that those provisions would not be objected to by those Governments?


said, he had received within the last few days one communication—from the Government of Sweden and Norway—in reference to this subject, asking that consideration might be given to it. There had not yet been time to reply to this communication, but no doubt their Lordships would be able to consider the subject in Committee.


thought that the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) had spoken under a misconception as to one clause of the Bill. He spoke of the "criminal" clause of the Bill, and described it as contrary to the usual course in this country, because it charged a person with the guilt of an offence and left it to him to prove his innocence. That, however, was not the effect of the clause. Clause 4 enacted that— Every person who sends or attempts to send, or is party to sending or attempting to send, a British ship to sea in such unseaworthy state that the life of any person is likely to be thereby endangered, and the managing owner of any British ship so sent to sea from any port in the United Kingdom, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor unless he proves that he used all reasonable means to ensure her being sent to sea in a seaworthy state, or that her going to sea in such unseaworthy state was under the circumstances reasonable and justifiable. By that clause nothing was presumed against the person accused. It would have to be proved by the prosecution that the owner or managing owner sent the ship to sea in an unseaworthy state, and there was no attempt to raise a presumption against either of them. This would give the person accused an opportunity of delivering himself from the consequences of the offence of which he was supposed to be guilty. He might prove either that he used all reasonable means to ensure the ship being sent to sea in a seaworthy state, or that her going to sea in such unseaworthy state was reasonable and justifiable;and he was allowed to give evidence in his own exculpation. If there had been no direct precedent for legislation of this kind it would still be justifiable; but the fact was that for many years—if not for 100 years past—legislation of that description had been adopted, and certain criminal statutes might be quoted in proof; as, for example, those relating to the possession of stolen property, which raised a presumption against a person from facts which were consistent either with guilt or innocence. The fact was, however, that this clause had been the law of the land for the last five years. The noble Duke had also referred to the manner in which the Bill proposed to treat foreign ships in this country, and he stated that this was not a provision intended to save life. He differed from the noble Duke, because the provision was introduced with that direct object. Was it possible, however, to introduce such a provision as to British ships without a similar provision as to foreign ships, and without putting them on the same footing? The clause as to deck loads was introduced into the Bill in the House of Commons with the consent of all sides of the House. As a matter of constitutional law and practice he saw no difficulty in that clause. The Legislature had a right to say that ships which came to this country with particular cargoes should be loaded in a particular way; and the Bill pointed out the person who should be responsible for the loading. The noble Duke objected to the clause that it did not merely refer to the arrival of a ship in this country, but to the loading, and therefore to something done, not within, but out of the jurisdiction of this country. He did not underrate the gravity of the objection; but, if the Legislature ought to prevent the practice, there was no difficulty in retaining a jurisdiction over the ship when it arrived in this country, after the date which rendered it liable to the penalty provided by the Act, unless it was proved that, according to the date when it left the port of departure, it might reasonably have been expected to arrive in this country before the day in question. It was, however, worthy of consideration in Committee whether this or some alternative plan should be adopted.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Monday the 3rd of July next.