HL Deb 14 December 1906 vol 167 cc806-10

Amendments reported (according to Order.)


moved to insert in Clause 52 a new subsection which, he said, dealt with a highly technical subject. It had been a matter of considerable negotiation between those for whom he was acting and the Board of Trade as well as the Lord Chancellor. Under Section 21 (1) of the Act of 1894, on a ship being transferred to a foreigner intimation of the transfer was made to the registrar, who made an entry of the fact in his register. The practice was thereupon to close the register irrespective of any existing unsatisfied mortgages. Under this section the sale might have taken place either abroad or in this country. Section 44, the section regulating these transfers, provided a statutory method for sale taking place to a foreigner in a foreign country. This was done by means of a certificate of sale, which consisted of a power of attorney in favour of the foreign agent and included a description of the ship as appearing on the register and narrated any mortgages appearing on the register. The foreign purchaser under the certificate of sale had an opportunity of learning for himself if there were any unpaid mortgages, and might require them to be paid off before he purchased the vessel. Subsection (10) of Section 44 provided that the documents of sale were to be transmitted to the registrar, who— Shall thereupon make a memorandum of the sale in his register book, and the registry of the ship in that book shall be considered as closed, except so far as relates to any unsatisfied mortgages or existing certificates of mortgage entered therein. The presumption therefore was that the register remained open with respect to any unpaid mortgages. In practice the register was, as a matter of fact, closed, and the opinion of shipping lawyers was that the exception just quoted provided no remedy whatever. Its terms were vague, and it was only by inference that the Courts could be considered as having the power to enforce unpaid mortgages. He was informed that by far the greatest number of transfers to foreigners did not take place under the provisions of Section 44, but by simple note or bill of sale, and in the Bill now before their Lordships the exception in sub-section (10) had been added to Section 21. The provision was inserted in the Bill in the House of Commons, but for the reasons he had already stated he doubted whether it was very much use. He assured their Lordships that a very large amount of capital was invested in British shipping, and apparently mortgagees, if the reading of the law was right as it now stood, were at the mercy of owners who, by selling a ship to a foreigner, could have the register closed and destroy the security of the mortgage. The only remedy the mortgagee had nagaist the ship was to apply to the Courts to enforce the mortgage, on the ground that the register was still open so far as related to the mortgage. It was, however, doubtful if the Courts would consider that they had the power to enforce the mortgage. The confidence of those who dealt in this class of business had been much shaken, and it was of importance that that confidence should be restored. The Amendment which he had placed on the Paper would, it was believed, go far towards effecting that purpose. He understood that after considerable negotiations the legal advisers of the Board of Trade and the Lord Chancellor, and, he supposed, the Foreign Office, were satisfied that this was a fair provision. At any rate the point of it was that if a ship which had an unsatisfied mortgage upon it afterwards came within the jurisdiction of a British Court that Court could order possession to be taken and investigate the whole procedure. He did not think any question of an international character ought to arise. But there was one point on which those whom he represented would like to be satisfied, and that was whether the word "British" Court intended to limit the mortgagees' right against a ship to the Courts of Great Britain, or whether it was considered that the word included the Courts of British possessions. He would imagine himself that there could be no doubt that in this connection the term British would apply to, and include, all Colonial Courts. If he received that assurance he would be content to move the Amendment as it stood, but, without that assurance, he would like to move the deletion of the word "British."

Amendment moved—

"In Clause 52, page 30. line 5, after the word 'therein' to insert as a new subsection: '(2) It is hereby declared that where the registry of a ship is considered as closed under subsection (1) of section twenty-one of the principal Act as amended by this section or under sub-section (10) of section forty-four of that Act, on account of a transfer to persons not qualified to be owners of British ships, any unsatisfied registered mortgage (including mortgages made under a certificate of mortgage) may, if the ship comes within the jurisdiction of any British Court which has jurisdiction to enforce the mortgage, or would have had such jurisdiction if the transfer had not been made, be enforced by that Court notwithstanding the transfer, without prejudice, in cases where the ship has been sold under a judgment of a Court, to the effect of that judgment."—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh.)


in announcing that the Government would accept the new sub-section, said the object of shipowners and others who advanced money on British ships was that their security might not be wholly frustrated by the sale being registered abroad and the transfer completed without any regard to the mortgage. We could not say we would not recognise a sale which might be perfectly valid according to the law of the country in which it took place. The only alternative seemed to be that now proposed, that when the ship came within the jurisdiction of any British Court that Court should have the right to enforce the mortgage. He had no doubt at all that the term "British Court" included any British Court whether in Australia or in any other colony. He thought Lord Balfour's Amendment was a very proper one, in order to give the security so much needed.


asked how the words "British Court" would affect a Court in a British Pretectorate.


said it was impossible to say. What was a Pretectorate to-day might not be a Protectorate to-morrow. But, after all, the number of ships concerned that would enter the ports of a British Protectorate would be very few.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Drafting Amendments agreed to.


I believe it will be in accordance with the wish of the House, and certainly it will be a very great advantage in regard to getting through the business of the remainder of the session, if we can send this Bill down to the House of Commons at once. Therefore, if there is no objection, I shall move that the Bill be now read a third time.


said that so far as the Opposition were concerned, they desired to help the noble Marquess in this matter, especially on account of the extremely courteous and kind way in which the noble Lord in charge of the Bill (the Earl of Granard) had conducted the proceedings.


I am very pleased to see recognised what I must be permitted to say was the able way in which my noble friend conducted this Bill.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Marquess of Ripon.)


said that when he moved an Amendment at a previous stage Lord Tweedmouth undertook that the provision which he desired inserted, to the effect that every ship should carry some one on board trained in first-aid, would be dealt with by the Government. It would be a matter of great satisfaction to many interested in this point if the noble Earl in charge of the Bill could state what the Government proposed to do in regard to this matter.


said the matter had been discussed very carefully at the Board of Trade, and it had been decided that after the beginning of next year, when the Bill came into force, there should be added to the syllabus for the examination of second mates a requirement that they should have some knowledge of first-aid. Those instructions would be issued almost immediately.


The effect of that will be that on all large ships there will be somebody possessing first-aid knowledge?


Every one going up for a second mate's certificate will have to know something upon this subject.

On Question (Standing Order XXXIX. having been suspended), Bill read 3a, with the Amendments, and passed and returned to the Commons, and to be printed as amended.