HL Deb 30 August 1880 vol 256 cc606-8

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, the reason it came before the House at so late a period of the Session was owing to the fact that the subject of grain cargoes had been, for a considerable time, under the consideration of a Select Committee of the other House, who had gone most thoroughly into the whole question. The Bill was founded on their Report, the main recommendation of which was adopted unanimously by the Committee. The Committee was presided over by the President of the Board of Trade and was composed of 27 Members, consisting of the late Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade, six shipowners, and representatives of all the interests concerned. It was shown that from 1873 to 1880, 274 grain-laden ships were missing or reported as foundered, with the loss of nearly 2,800 lives. No evidence was forthcoming of the missing ships, which went down with all hands; but of the 139 foundered ships it was known that in 32 cases the cargo shifted, and probably in many more that was a contributory, if not a primary, cause of the loss. Evidence was given of the practice prevailing in Canada, and especially in the port of Montreal. Previously to 1873 there were many losses of Canadian grain-laden ships; but since that date, when stringent precautions were adopted, it was a remarkable fact no loss whatever had occurred. The main conditions of the Canadian system were embodied in the Bill, and consisted in the requirement of sufficient and substantial shifting boards, and in the provision of a certain proportion of bags. Ships laden with oats and cotton-seed were exempted, which, being a light cargo and not liable to shift, presented no source of special danger. Ships carrying grain in bulk and fitted with properly-constructed feeders, so that the lower holds were kept constantly full and the cargo prevented from shifting as the grain settled, were exempted from the regulation as to bags. Ships in which the grain cargo did not exceed one-half of the whole were also exempted when the rest of the cargo was so stowed as to prevent shifting. A very important part of the Bill was that the special provisions detailed were declared not to exempt the shipowner from taking all such other precautions as might be necessary and reasonable, and thus the shipowner was not freed from his direct responsibility. Lastly, in order to secure accurate information as to the loading of grain ships, the master of the ship was to deliver full particulars before leaving the final port of loading. The Bill only applied to the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the coast of North America, and evidence to the effect of all these provisions was given to the Committee by shipowners and others. Speaking generally, while shipowners objected, as a matter of principle, to all interference with their trade, the witnesses all agreed that if any regulations were to be made by Parliament there was no serious objection to those now proposed. Mr. Leyland, a large shipowner, representing the views of the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, consisting of about one-third the entire steam tonnage of the United Kingdom, said that the regulations were such as any reasonable shipowner would adopt, and he saw no objection to making them compulsory. He also said— I think legislation ought to interfere to a certain extent. I think it ought to prevent overloading. I think it ought to provide for substantial shifting boards, and that no vessel should carry more than three-fourths of her cargo in bulk. He would only add that he believed what Mr. Leyland so well expressed was the feeling of nine-tenths of the shipowners of the country. The Bill passed through the other House without a single division. If passed, it was anticipated it would prevent a great number of vessels being lost during the ensuing winter. He trusted their Lordships would give it a second reading.

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

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.