HL Deb 07 November 1911 vol 10 cc94-6


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the Bill which I have the honour to present to your Lordships for Second Reading to-day is a very simple one, its object being to remove hardships which at present exist in regard to a certain section of the maritime population of this country—namely, stevedores and trimmers. As the law at present stands, these persons have no way of arresting a ship in the event of their claims for wages not having been paid. It has been laid down by the Court that stevedores and trimmers have only to do with the cargo, and have nothing whatever to do with the ship. They cannot, therefore, arrest a ship, as can be done by tradesmen supplying goods or by members of the crew. Cases of hardship have been brought to the notice of the Government, especially in the case of foreign owned vessels the owners of which have no offices in this country and consequently cannot be sued in a British Court of law. It is to remove this difficulty that the Bill now before your Lordships has been framed it enables any person of the class I have mentioned to apply to a Judge for the arrest of the ship. I understand that Lord Gorell takes exception to the procedure under the Bill, and is anxious that the procedure should be through the Admiralty Courts. If the noble and learned Lord will formulate an Amendment on those lines I can assure him that it will receive the consideration of His Majesty's Government. I do not think it is necessary for me to say more in regard to the Bill, and it is with confidence that I submit it to your Lordships for Second Reading.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Granard.)


My Lords, the Amendment which I have suggested, and which has been referred to by the noble Earl, would afford some assistance in addition to that given by this Bill. The point is this. The Bill enables a Judge to order the arrest of a vessel, and that arrest can then—I believe I am correct—be enforced by means of the officers of the Board of Trade or in some such form as that. But it is not always possible to find the Judge at the moment that it is necessary to make the order for arrest, and therefore those who desire to proceed—and this is really the point of the Bill—against foreign vessels are not, perhaps, able to effect the arrest because of the difficulty in finding the person to make the order. Then, again, when a vessel has been arrested she can only, as I read the Bill, be released by an order of the Judge, and that may be difficult to get owing to the absence of the Judge. In the high Court, however, the Judge of the Admiralty Court is always accessible, and even in vacation time his duties are taken by one of the other Judges. This Bill, as I understand it, will enable proceedings to be taken, within proper limits, in the County Court, but the Judge of that particular County Court might not necessarily be in the town or place where the vessel was arrested, and the procedure might cause some little delay. Demurrage on a very large vessel is so serious that promptitude in releasing a ship arrested in respect of small claims, as they might be, for stowing and trimming cargo is of great importance. I therefore venture to suggest, and I have made the suggestion to the Department from which this Bill emanates, that it might be desirable to give a power to proceed also in the Admiralty Court. In the present state of things the Admiralty Court has jurisdiction to arrest a vessel in respect of necessaries. The noble Earl has pointed out that that does not include the right of persons in the position of stevedores and trimmers to proceed for work done on the cargo; but this is so analogous to necessaries that the suggestion occurs to one that the procedure of the Admiralty Court might be allowed to be put in force in support of these claims. The difficulties in regard to delay to which I have referred might then be overcome, as a warrant of arrest can always be obtained at the office without going to the Judge, and release effected in the same way. Therefore the kind of Amendment which I would venture to propose when the Bill goes into Committee would simply be that power should be given to enable persons who have claims of the character mentioned in the Bill to proceed, if they choose, in exactly the same way as anyone would proceed who was arresting a ship for necessaries.


My Lords, I need hardly state that any suggestion coming from my noble and learned friend is sure to be very carefully considered. I may say that I am in sympathy with a good deal of what he says, and if he will kindly put down his Amendment for the Committee stage I think he may anticipate a very friendly consideration of it on the part of the Government.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.