§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."
§ LORD NORTON
said, he was extremely sorry that the Bill had been delayed so long that its passage through Parliament had been endangered. It was an entire misapprehension to suppose that the Smackowners' Association of Hull was opposed to this measure. They had petitioned for delay; but he had the authority of Mr. Norwood, the Chairman of the Departmental Committee, for saying that they wished to withdraw that Memorial, and were anxious there should not be any further delay in the passing of the Bill. The Bill gave no more than necessary protection to a large number of lads employed in the fishing trade, who were often brutally treated, and who very much needed protection. They were often taken into the Service at the age of 11, many of them were orphans and paupers, and they were altogether without the protection they required both afloat and ashore. Mer- 1297 chant shipping legislation over-protected the men in the Service, who could look after themselves, and gave no protection to the boys, who were at their mercy. On the other hand, since recent legislation had deprived smackowners of their summary remedy against desertion or mutinous conduct, and left them only a pecuniary remedy, which was absolutely futile, the Act was necessary in the interests of the smackowners also. Under these circumstances, he trusted that the Bill might be allowed to become law this Session. It had been objected that they had only the Report of a Depart- mental Committee on this subject. But the inquiry of that Committee had been a most careful one; they had taken evidence from all parties concerned, and visited the places; and if they were to wait for a Parliamentary Committee, they would postpone the consideration of the matter sine die.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
said, he was sorry to take a different view to that of the noble Lord. This Bill did not merely give protection to the boys. It was a Bill which would compel every fishing vessel of over 20 tons to hold a certificate it involved great changes with regard to the regulation of lodging-houses, and was a Bill of some importance. It enacted some of the strongest provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. Mr. Birkbeck, who had signed the Report of the Special Committee, had written that lie thought it "indispensable" the Bill should be postponed till another year, on the ground that the details seemed to be so little known in certain quarters. He (the Earl of Wemyss) therefore hoped that, with the view of making legislation effective, time would be given to all parties concerned to further consider the Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he thought the appeal of the noble Earl was one to which their Lordships ought to give some attention. The Bill was a peculiar one. It proposed to make a great alteration in the existing law, and was being pushed on at a time when it was impossible to scrutinize its details. At first he had been strongly impressed in favour of the Bill by seeing on the Departmental Committee which sat on it the name of Mr. Birkbeck, M.P.; but it was now stated that Mr. Birkbeck considered the matter had not been sufficiently inquired into. There were 1298 great objections to it on the part of the population who would be subjected to its operation. Earnest representations had been made to him (the Marquess of Salisbury) on the subject by the Smackowners' Association, and they had not since informed him that their objections were withdrawn. As matters stood, their Lordships had no security that in passing this Bill they would not be doing harm instead of good, and going against the wishes of the people who would be affected by it. He, therefore, thought their Lordships should not go into Committee on the Bill at that time.
§ LORD NORTON
explained, that Mr. Birkbeck signed the Report, except as to the size of vessels requiring the granting of certificates. The population Mr. Birkbeck represented were, therefore, committed to the Bill, with that exception. He denied that there was any great alteration as to existing provisions of the law in the Bill.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, the proceedings on this Bill were founded on the Report of the Departmental Committee. He thought it reasonable that when a Bill had been brought in, although some Gentlemen might change their minds with regard to it, it should receive full consideration. He understood that it was extremely desirable that this matter should be dealt with, and therefore he thought they might be allowed to get into Committee. He regretted that Mr. Birkbeck, after having declared in. favour of the Bill, should have turned round in his opinion.
Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly; Amendments made: The Report thereof to be received To-morrow; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 170.)