§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD BUGKMASTER)
My Lords, in asking your Lordships to grant a Second Reading to this Bill it will not be necessary for me to detain you with a long explanation as to its, details and provisions. The object of the Bill is to enable proceedings in any one Prize Court in our Dominions to be removed to any other Prize Court that is convenient. This object is carried out by an arrangement which provides that the proceedings can be removed by an order of the Court, and that if that order is made the vessel or the cargo, or both, may be moved to the Court to which the proceedings are transferred.
Perhaps a few words of explanation are due to the House to show why it is that this Bill has become necessary. Whenever a vessel is captured at sea it is essential that it should be taken into the nearest port, and the result is that many vessels are taken into a port where the consignees of the cargo do not live and where it is extremely difficult to ascertain the true ownership of the cargo. I may mention that in one instance the number of owners of a particular cargo that was seized amounted to 2,200. All the commercial documents which prove title to the cargo are, of course, at the port of destination of the vessel, and if the vessel is seized, as it frequently is, half way on its journey it follows that the consignees would be bound to transfer the whole of their documents of title to the intermediate Court in order that they might prove their right to the cargo. This has resulted in extreme inconvenience to many owners, and has thrown upon the Prize Courts considering the matter considerable difficulties. The proposal in this Bill is that where proceedings are pending in any Prize Court against any ship or cargo, the Court may at any stage of the proceedings, on application being made by the proper officer of the Crown, and upon being satisfied that the proceedings, or the proceedings so far as they relate to the cargo or any part thereof, would be more conveniently conducted in any other Prize Court, make an order remitting the proceedings, or the proceedings so far as they relate to the cargo or to any part of the cargo, to such other Prize Court.
The only subsidiary provisions in the Bill are these. If a vessel is transferred, 206 it sails under the Merchant Shipping Act and is treated as a registered British vessel. Then there is a provision, which I hope will meet with your Lordships' approval, that it shall be competent to establish payment for the officers of a Prize Court by a lump sum in certain cases in lieu of a fee payable by a percentage. That can only be effected by certain consents, and I think in many cases it will be much more satisfactory than the present remuneration, which often amounts to a very large suns for small services rendered and to a very small sum for large services.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ Committee negatived: Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Bill read 3a, and passed.