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Commons Chamber

Volume 203: debated on Wednesday 3 August 1870

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 3rd August, 1870.

MINUTES.]—SUPPLY— considered in CommitteeResolutions [August 2] reported.

WAYS AND MEANS— considered in CommitteeResolution [August 2] reported.

PUBLIC BILLS — OrderedFirst Reading — Consolidated Fund (Appropriation)* .

First Reading—British Columbia* [257].

Second Reading — Sale of Liquors on Sunday [57], put off.

CommitteeReport—Merchant Shipping Code* [24–259]; Sunday Trading [68], negatived; Foreign Enlistment [228–258].

Considered as amendedThird Reading—Constabulary (Ireland)* [241], and passed.

Third Reading—Meeting of Parliament* [247]; Canada (Guarantee of Loan)* [225]; Beerhouses* [248], and passed.

Withdrawn—Game Laws (Scotland) [Mr. Loch]* [7].

Sale Of Liquors On Sunday Bill

( Mr. Rylands, Mr. Candlish, Mr. Birley, Mr. Osborne Morgan.)

Bill 57 Second Reading

Adjourned Debate

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [29th June], "That the Bill be now road a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

said, he believed it was the intention of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) to press the Bill forward. He, however, felt convinced that there would be no chance of success, and he thought the hon. Member would meet the wishes of the House if he were to withdraw the measure, remembering that the whole subject of the licensing system was to be taken into consideration by the Government next Session. If the Bill now before the House would suit certain districts, it would be wholly unsuitable to other districts, and particularly to the metropolis. A measure which would close every tavern, public-house, and houses for the sale of refreshments, where beer or wine was sold, could not be put in operation in London by any Government. He appealed to the hon. Member to remain satisfied, under the circumstances, with having ventilated the question. He moved, that the Bill be road a second time upon that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months." — ( Mr. Alderman Lawrence.)

Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for three months.

Married Women's Property Bill

Lords' Amendments

Lords' Amendments considered.

said, that he had to call the attention of the House to the alterations, he wished he could say the Amendments, made in the Married Women's Property Bill in the House of Lords. The Bill, in fact, as it had come down from the other House was a new Bill, and framed upon a different principle from that which left this House. This House had proceeded upon the belief that the law by which a woman forfeited her property by the act of marriage was a bad law, and that great evils sprang from it, affecting, though in very different degrees, both rich and poor, and had proposed to remedy these evils by its repeal. In the other House, the existence of these evils, especially as affecting the working classes, was fully admitted; but instead of repealing the law, they had proposed to apply specific remedies for the more glaring of the evils, and he fully and gratefully admitted that, as far as related to the working classes, who formed the most numerous and most helpless class of the sufferers under the present law, the Bill would in its present form afford real though not complete relief. He did not indeed think that that relief was afforded in the best form, and he feared that it would be found to be attended with greater danger of producing family discord than would the Bill which he had himself introduced. He did not, however, hesitate to advise the House to accept the Bill, as at that period of the Session it would be vain to propose any substantial Amendments, he should, therefore, merely propose some verbal Amendments which were necessary in some of the clauses; and as the Bill was now to have effect only in the case of marriages contracted subsequently to the passing of the Act, he should propose that it should come into immediate operation. He must, however, say that legislation on this subject could not end with this Bill, as there would yet remain much to be remedied, and principles were admitted in the Bill in its present form, which, unless it were to be contended that bad husbands were to be found only amongst the poor, must lead to a fuller and more complete measure.

said, he regretted that the House of Lords had not accepted the simple and just principle on which the Bill as framed by the Commons was founded. He thought that as the Bill as framed by the Lords effected a great improvement in the existing law, it would be wise to accede to their Amendments, and he hoped that before long the principle for which they contended would be acknowledged, and the law so altered as to secure to married women the right to their own property and earnings as fully as to men.

Lords' Amendments agreed to, with Amendments.

Tramways Bill

Lords' Amendments

Lords' Amendments considered.

said, he rose to move an Amendment to the Lords' Amendment to the 5th clause. As the clause had been altered by the other House, it proposed that notice should be given to every occupier and owner of every house in any street of the intention to lay down a tramway; but he proposed that only the same notice should be given in the case of a Provisional Order as in the case of a Private Bill.

Page 3, line 30,

Leave out the words "according to the regulations contained in Part One of the Schedule B to this Act," and insert the words "and they shall, on or before the fifteenth day of the following month of December, serve a copy of such notice upon the owner and occupier of every house, shop, or warehouse abutting upon any road or upon the part of any road along which it is proposed to lay any tramway according to the regulations contained in Part One of the Schedule B to this Act annexed,"

the nest Amendment, read a second time.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "serve" to the end of the Amendment, in order to add the words "notice of such intention in accordance with the Standing Orders (if any), of both Houses of Parliament for the time being in force with respect to Bills for the construction, of Tramways,"—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre,)

—instead thereof.

said, he would support the Lords' Amendment. It was of great importance that the owners and occupiers of houses and shops in streets should have a voice in the matter, and have an opportunity of stating whether they desired to have tramways laid down before their houses or not.

said, he desired to support the Amendment of the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Shaw Lefevre). Under that Amendment every necessary protection would be given to owners and occupiers, and unless it were passed very great obstacles would be thrown in the way of the promoters of tramways.

said, that if the Lords' Amendment were maintained it would throw great expense upon the promoters of tramways, who would then proceed by Private Bills instead of by Provisional Orders. If it were found by experience that the notice to be given under his Amendment were insufficient it would be competent for the House to alter the Standing Order on the subject.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of The Lords' Amendment," put, and negatived.

Question put, "That the words

'Notice of such intention in accordance with the Standing Orders (if any), of both Houses of Parliament for the time being in force with respect to Bills for the construction of Tramways,'

be added, instead thereof."

The House divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 14: Majority 21.

Lords' Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 12 (Confirmation of Provisional Order by Act of Parliament).

said, he wished to call attention to an extraordinary provision introduced by the Lords, the effect of which would be that the Bill when passed into law would prescribe the time at which the House of Commons would allow Bills to be introduced. At present the Standing Orders as to the time when Private Bills should be introduced might be suspended, and he submitted that the same liberty of action should be reserved with regard to Provisional Orders. The effect of the Lords' Amendment would in a measure make the time for allowing a Bill to be introduced dependent on the consent of the other House. It appeared to him that was not a position in which the House of Commons should be placed. He would therefore ask the House to disagree to the Lords' Amendment, and he would undertake to move a Standing Order regulating the time when Bills for the confirmation of Provisional Orders should be introduced, and which would meet all the objects of the Upper House.

Amendment disagreed to.

said, he would beg to move the omission of words from Schedule A, Part III. which were inserted by the Lords, and which seemed to him to interfere with local government. If those words were allowed to remain a few persons in a place might contravene the action of the representative body of the whole constituency.

Amendment proposed,

"Schedule A, Part III., to disagree to the last nine paragraphs commencing with the words 'where any such resolution,' page 33."—(Mr. Cawley.)

said, he would support the Motion. The Amendment of the Lords would upset municipal government, and would at the same time prove quite impracticable. The Town Councils fairly represented the various places where they sat, and the matter might fairly rest in their hands whether a tramway should be laid down or not.

said, he concurred in the view which the hon. Gentleman had taken. The effect of the Lords' Amendment would be to deprive the Bill of much of its utility. The essence of the Bill was that the local authorities should, under certain conditions, have the power to agree to the construction of those rails.

said, the House of Lords attached great importance to this Amendment; but if the House was of opinion that it should not be adopted, he would not oppose the Motion.

Amendment disagreed to.

Subsequent Amendments road a second time; several agreed to; several amended, and agreed to; several disagreed to.

Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendments to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, Mr. DODSON, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, Lord JOHN HAY, Mr. JAMES LOWTHER, Mr. GRAVES, Mr. GLYN, and Mr. CAWLBY:—To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.

Reasons for disagreeing to Lords Amendments reported, and agreed to.

To be communicated to The Lords.

Sunday Trading Bill—Bill 68 (Lords) Committee

Order for Committee read.

, in moving the Order of the Day for going into Committee on this Bill, said, that it had come down from the other House, and was in charge of the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. Thomas Hughes), who having gone on a lengthened tour to the United States, had requested him to take charge of it. It was a very different Bill from that of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands); it had been read a second time by a large majority, had repeatedly received the sanction of the House, and had passed the other branch of the Legislature; and it was supported by the Members of the present and of the late Governments, and almost all the prominent Members of the House In order as far as possible to meet the views of some hon. Members who had hitherto opposed the measure, he was prepared to limit its application to the metropolis. If found to work well in London, it might afterwards be extended to other large towns.

said, it would be quite impossible for him to allow that stage to pass without entering another protest against this measure, which would do nothing but mischief. The Bill professed to be framed in the interests of the trading classes, but it would prove most injurious to the humbler portions of those classes. It was founded on no principle; unsettled everything and settled nothing. It had been gravely said that the present war upon the Continent was a judgment upon the nations engaged in it for their non-observance of the Sabbath, and that similar judgments might be expected to fall on this country in the event of its refusing to adopt the principle of this Bill—a little piece of blasphemy in which only the very religious would permit themselves to indulge The Hyde Park meeting on the subject had been sneered at, and the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. Thomas Hughes) said that the attendance consisted mainly of roughs, and that not thirty of those present had any idea of what was going on. But The Times, not usually very favourable to meetings in Hyde Park, had given a much more reliable account of the proceedings, and the chairman who presided at one of the many platforms on that occasion had written to him to say that all the speakers were representative men, and were attended by large personal followings. Since then, another large open-air meeting had been held in Whitechapel, which had also been described in The Times, with a suggestion that those who took part in promoting legislation of the character proposed would do well to make themselves acquainted with the sentiments of those whom such legislation would primarily affect. The magistrates of London, who knew far better the social requirements of the working classes than the hon. Member, were generally opposed to such measures. The Bill was essentially a class Bill, and a wanton attempt to oppress the poorer classes. It was said, indeed, that it would prevent the streets from being turned into menageries and flower gardens on Sundays; but let those who held such language go and look at the thousands of well-dressed persons in the Zoological Gardens. He held that it would be dangerous for the House of Commons to pass such a Bill; and that if they did pass it, they would soon afterwards have to repeal it. Were such a measure held to be necessary, it should be introduced by the Government, and not left to a private Member. He hoped the Government would interfere and stop the measure.

said, he hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot) would not press the Bill, which must give rise to lengthened discussion; and it was of great importance that the Foreign Enlistment Bill should be considered that day. He was very far from joining in the unmeasured denunciations heaped upon the Bill by the hon. Member who had just sat down. It was no objection to the Bill that it was not founded, upon a more clearly defined principle. There could be no principle except on the one hand that of absolute observance of the day—which would be opposed to the practice of the country, to the provisions of existing Acts of Parliament, by which trading, to a certain extent, was legalized—or, on the other hand, that of total non-observance; and he ventured to think that the identification of Sunday with every other day in the week would give a shock to the moral and religious sense of the country. The only possible legislation on the subject, therefore, was some Bill resembling that introduced by the hon. Member, and if the measure really excited that deep feeling of indignation described by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), was it not remarkable that no metropolitan Member had come forward to express it? The general feeling of the metropolis, judging from the numerous deputations he had received, was that reasonable facilities should be given for such traffic as was absolutely necessary for the accommodation of the poor, but that securities at the same time should exist for the decent observance of the Sabbath. With respect to the public meetings mentioned by the hon. Member, he thought the truth lay midway between the conflicting statements. An official Report, on which he could rely, informed him that in Hyde Park about 1,000 persons attended the meeting specially, and about 2,000 of the ordinary occupiers of the Park on Sunday afternoons stood by to listen from motives of curiosity. Such a meeting could not be said, in any sense, to represent the feelings of the working classes of the metropolis. At the same time, as a vote of the House at this period of the Session would hardly carry that weight which was desirable, it would be judicious, he thought, in his hon. Friend (Mr. J. G. Talbot) not to press the Motion.

said, he protested against the Bill, and would give the Bill his most strenuous opposition. In his opinion it was a class measure which would fall with unfair severity upon the poorer classes, and for that reason he would object to its passing.

said, he was surprised to hear from the Secretary of State for the Home Department that, in consequence of many Members being absent from the House, he would not regard a decision upon the Bill as registering the true opinion of the House of Commons. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had, only on the previous night, pressed forward a measure which was objected to by a large number 6f Gentlemen on both sides. The Bill had been pressed through by the determination of the Government, and he (Mr. Candlish) might under the circumstances say with equal truth that, having been forced through in that way in a thin House, it did not record the proper opinion of the House of Commons. He hoped that if the Government did not undertake to bring in a Bill upon the subject of Sunday trading, the hon. Gentleman opposite would take the opinion of the House upon his measure.

Motion made, and Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and negatived.


Resolutions [August 2] reported.

Navy Increase—Question

said, in the absence of his hon. Friend (Sir James Elphinstone) he wished to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, seeing that the Secretary of State for War has defined the amount of force by which the Army is to be increased, to state what increase he intends to propose to the Naval armament of the Country?

said, there was no intention whatever of adding to the number of men in the Navy, as had been proposed in the case of the Army, as we already possessed an abundant supply of seamen and Marines. As to what increase it was intended to propose to the naval armament of the country, that was a question which, under present circumstances, he thought it would be prudent not to ask, but to place confidence in the Government. Certain changes would, no doubt, be made in the dockyards and elsewhere; but he was quite satisfied, from all that had transpired, that the House felt full confidence in the naval administration of the country; and, indeed, this confidence had been expressed on more than one occasion. He wished to take that opportunity of correcting a statement which had been made by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), which had given rise to some misapprehension, and there was reason to believe, had also excited some degree of apprehension in the country. In the early part of this Session, there was laid on the Table of the House a statement of the coals at the various depôts at home and abroad. It so happened that the statement was dated the 31st of January. Hon. Gentlemen would recollect that the months of November, December, and January were exceedingly stormy, and the consequence was that the vessels which had been sent with coals to two of the ports, Malta and Gibraltar, were detained an unusually long time on the voyage. But the Admiralty were not singular in this misfortune. The same thing happened to the great steam companies and to merchants in the Mediterranean. But the consequence was that the depôts at Malta and Gibraltar were left for a few weeks with only some hundreds instead of some thousands of tons of coal. The hon. and gallant Baronet, in quoting the note appended to that Return, took good care to read only part of it; it certainly was his duty to have read the note in full, which stated that all these coals arrived the first week in February. At the present moment there were at Gibraltar 5,411 tons of coal, and 4,000 tons more were shipped, and in process of conveyance thither. At Malta there were 2,419 tons of coal, and there had been shipped 11,148. At Halifax there were on hand 2,347 tons of coal, and 7,787 had been shipped. At Bermuda there were on hand only 289 tons, but on their way out there were 3,902 tons. So that either on hand or on their way out to the foreign depôts referred to by the hon. Baronet there was actually a larger supply of coals than was ever provided for the fleet in the palmy days when the hon. and gallant Baronet himself was in Office. He had the authority of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty for the further statement he was about to make. His right hon. Friend had called on the Controller of the Navy and himself to report as to the state of supplies in the Dockyards, and as to the quantity of articles supplied under Vote 10, sec. 1, and he had the satisfaction of stating that every article taken in the Estimates this year had been bought, and the greater proportion of them brought into store. We had at this moment 15 or 18 months' supply of everything required for the British Navy. Under these circumstances, the Controller and he had advised the First Lord not to purchase a single article. With regard to victualling, they had a similar report to make. With one or two comparatively unimportant exceptions, all the articles taken in the Estimate for the supply of the Navy had been already bought, and he was happy to inform the House that, upon their own figures, there was at this moment a saving of £35,000.

said, that the Question which he had asked had reference merely to the additional money taken. And he really thought there ought to be, as far as the Navy was concerned, some explanation of what was going to be done with the £2,000,000 voted last night for naval and military purposes.

said, he wished to obtain from the Secretary of State for War an answer to the Question which he had put on the previous day as to the exportation of horses from the United Kingdom. It was evident the right hon. Gentleman could have no knowledge of the fact of which he (Mr. Lowther) was informed, upon authority to which he felt bound to attach importance, though, of course, he could not speak from personal knowledge, that this was now proceeding at the rate of 1,000 horses a day. Authorities which the right hon. Gentleman himself would admit were likely to be well informed apprised him that from the port of Southampton alone about 100 horses were daily exported. His principal object was to draw the attention of the Government to the bearing of this state of matters upon the urgent question of remounts for our own cavalry and other branches of the service. The customary regulation price in the British Army for troopers was £30; but since the war began foreign agents were at liberty to go to £40, and if the war lasted for any time how could the right hon. Gentleman expect any longer to get for £30 what foreigners were prepared to buy at £40 and upwards? The way in which regiments were ordinarily supplied with horses was this—some one dealer was specially retained for a regiment, and he entered into engagements with breeders of horses and with other dealers in different parts of the country to supply him with horses at a certain rate; and of their studs the choice was given to him for the regiment—that was to say, horses of three years old might be selected by this dealer before they were exposed in open market. If it were not for this system he believed that very great difficulty would be experienced by the Government in obtaining the horses which they wanted in the face of the circumstances he had mentioned. He know one case in which a dealer, while buying horses for the Government, was offered £10 above the regulation price, to hand over the horses to a foreign agent for exportation to the Continent. It was on the ground not only of economy, but of public policy that he alluded to the formidable rivalry in the purchase of horses which was thus being sot up between ourselves and foreign Governments. There was a provision in the Act of 1853 which enabled the Government in time of danger—not necessarily of war—to prohibit by an Order in Council the export of any articles which might be deemed likely to be required for our own service, and this power had been more than once acted upon. During the American War, for instance, the commodity of saltpetre was subjected to this prohibition. The supply of horses suited for military purposes was not unlimited, and how long was it supposed that the country could stand the drain of 1,000 horses a day? There were plenty of small, under-sized horses and harness horses not fit for cavalry or artillery, but he spoke of horses such as were needed for Her Majesty's service. There were some 22 cavalry regiments at home, and in each of these there had been a reduction of their strength by one-fourth. In one regiment that he knew of there had been a reduction of over 100. But latterly he understood that instructions had been forwarded to commanders of regiments not to cast any horses which could be made in any way available for service. Something had been said in a former debate as to our neutrality, and as to the export of horses being equally divided between the belligerents. But where one belligerent had undisputed command of the sea, it was a very one-sided argument to say that the market was open to both. In proof of this, he might mention that a large dealer in London had a contract for supplying the Prussian Government. He at once placed himself in communication with the representatives of Prussia in this country, and inquired whether he would be protected, as regards contraband of war, in his shipments of horses. He was told that he must land his horses on Prussian territory, and take upon himself the risk of their transmission. But this dealer would have been far less shrewd than his class were popularly supposed to be, if he submitted to these terms. He abandoned the Teutons to their fate, and placed himself in direct communication with the Gauls, who said to him—"Hand your horses over in your own yard, we will take all the risks, pay money down, and there is an end of this transaction." He confessed that he entertained objections to the principle of placing restrictions upon exports, though he should not have any great difficulty in reconciling himself to a prohibition upon imports. Looking, however, to the serious drain of horses to which this country was being subjected, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take the matter into his serious consideration.

said, he regretted that, in the multiplicity of Questions addressed to him yesterday, he had omitted to answer this particular inquiry; but he believed he had already made a very full statement with regard to the cavalry regiments. He was quite aware that the price of horses had been raised by the war between the two belligerent countries, and he was afraid that the price of oats, of hay, and of all articles consumed in great quantities by both belligerents would be increased in like manner; but he was not, on that account, prepared to bring in a Bill to stop the exportation of those articles, or to proceed with that object by Order in Council. According to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) a prohibition upon exports was objectionable, while a prohibition upon imports was not. A country, therefore, which exported everything and got nothing in return would be at the height of prosperity. Such certainly was not his idea of free trade. A good many stories about horses had been told in the course of these discussions, but his belief was that some "mares' nests" had been discovered, no certainly had never given any instructions, nor had he heard of any instructions being given to those responsible for the purchase of horses that they should take all the "screws" offered them, and make no selection at all. The real truth was that the Government were not prepared to prohibit those exports merely because, like other purchasers, they would have to pay a higher price for what they wanted. The trade of the country would have great reason to complain of the conduct of the Government if a prohibition were imposed, and this class of property were thereby depreciated in value, merely that the Government might obtain the limited supplies which they required at a more moderate price.

said, he did not propose to get up any discussion upon naval affairs; but he hoped that before the House separated for the Recess his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) would afford that explanation to which the House was entitled, and which it was scarcely respectful to withhold, as to the manner in which the sum of money that the House so liberally voted yesterday was proposed to be applied. He thought it necessary to make that remark, because he had observed, not only in that House, but in the public papers, a disposition to imagine that there were scarcely any preparations necessary to be made in the Navy. That opinion certainly was not shared by naval persons. He therefore hoped Her Majesty's Government would take an opportunity of informing the House what they proposed to do with the money voted for the increase of the Navy.

said, he had been gratified at the explanation given by the Secretary to the Admiralty as to the supplies of coal at the different foreign depôts; but, tinder present circumstances, he thought it would be of great advantage if each of those depôts had two or three years' stocks of coal. If the store accommodation were not sufficient for that purpose it should be immediately enlarged. It had been said that full confidence should be given to the arrangements of the present Government, both as regarded the efficiency and economy of the service He felt that confidence fully. But he hoped they would not_ allow considerations of economy in the slightest degree to interfere with efficiency. He hoped they would feel that the country trusted them to the fullest extent, and that they had only to ask and they should have whatever was necessary for the maintenance of the interests and the honour of the country, and the protection of our Colonies.

said, he was glad to hear that more workmen were likely to be employed in the dockyards, and he would suggest that those men who, having been on the establishment, had been discharged with smaller super-annuation allowances than they had been led to expect should be re-engaged. At present the men in the dockyards, and particularly those in the factories, were exceedingly discontented, because for some incomprehensible reason their wages had suddenly been reduced. If dissatisfaction were allowed to increase, the men would avoid the public service, and the country would be unable to employ any but the worst and lowest class of mechanics and labourers. It was false economy to be illiberal and ungenerous. At Keyham, the wages of the men in the factories had been reduced from 32s. or 33s. to 26s. or 27s. a week. What they wanted was that the rate of wages should be fixed and certain, in the same way as the salaries of men who had clerks' work to do. Those who managed the dockyards, but who resided in London, were not well-informed as to what went on, and the men complained of many capricious annoyances to which they were subject. For instance, at Keyham there were two classes of workmen, the dockyard men proper and the factory men. There were two gates which led from the dockyard, and suddenly there came out an order that the factory men should go out at the small gate, and the dockyard men at the large one. The consequence was that many of the factory men were obliged to walk a mile or a mile and a-half further than they had to do before in order to go home to their dinners, and if they had not time to go over the extra distance they were prevented, by what he must call a petty piece of pipe-clay, from enjoying the society of their families at meal times. The unsatisfactory reply given to the remonstrance of those who thus suffered was that they might change their residences, or cook their meals in a left, where there were a copper and a furnace; but it was obvious that this would occasion increased expense and great discomfort. Another curious and almost incredible explanation of this vexatious order was that a similar arrangement existed at Chatham, where the factory men lived close to the gate they were allowed to use, and of course experienced no inconvenience from such a regulation. If the Lords of the Admiralty were to look into these apparently small matters, but real evils, and pay good wages, they would secure the best and steadiest workmen, and make them contented and happy in the public service.

Resolutions agreed to.

Foreign Enlistment Bill—Bill 228

( Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Solicitor General, Mr. Bruce.)


Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

said, that the constituency which he represented (Hull) was likely to be extremely affected by hostile proceedings on the part of any European Powers; unfortunately, there was no part of Her Majesty's dominions more likely to be injured by the contest now raging. He very much regretted that the Government did not bring in a Bill shortly after the Report of the Royal Commission in 1868, instead of waiting until war had been actually declared. Under the circumstances the Government ought not to do more than re-enact the present law with such amendments as might be necessary to meet cases like that of the Alabama; in other words, they might take greater powers than they had at present to stop the delivery and despatch of similar vessels. The Bill before the House was in many respects too stringent, but he trusted that considerable concessions would be made in that respect by the Law Officers of the Crown. He objected to the change of jurisdiction. Under the old Act it was the Court of Exchequer that had jurisdiction. It was now proposed by Clause 23, that the duty of deciding upon the forfeiture of a vessel should be given to the Court of Admiralty, in which the mercantile public had very little confidence. He objected that power should be given to any one Judge, without the aid of a jury, to try the question of forfeiture, involving, as it did, the intent of the person who fitted out the ship. That was a point which ought to be determined by a jury, and not left to the decision of any one man. As representing a mercantile community, he protested against the Bill. His constituents were already suffering great privations by the interruption to their trade, but they were willing to submit to a Foreign Enlistment Act, if only its provisions were not strained too much. It should be remembered that neutrals had their rights as well as belligerents.

said, he could not concur with his hon. Friend (Mr. Norwood) in his objection to Clause 23, which gave the Secretary of State power to refer the matter to the Court of Admiralty. He wished to advert to one point which had attracted a great deal of public attention. Complaint had been made that this Bill did not go far enough; that it only prohibited the exportation of ships of war, and did not interfere with the trade in contraband generally. Now, he wished to call special attention to the conduct and policy of that Power which, above all others in the history of the world, had been famous for the observance of neutrality—namely, the United States of America. There was a very important document on this subject—the Message of the President of the United States, issued in 1855, during the course of the Crimean War—which he desired to bring under the notice of the House. At that time the United States had to consider their conduct very carefully with respect to that war. They all remembered the painful circumstances which attended the recall of Sir John Crampton from the United States, on account of his connection with a transaction which, though he was sure nothing contrary to the law of the United States was intended by the British Government, gave the Americans reason to complain, and, no doubt, the conduct of England on that occasion was not to be defended. The President in his Message stated that it was the traditional and settled policy of the United States to maintain impartial neutrality during the wars which from time to time occurred among the Great Powers of Europe; but, notwithstanding the existence of hostilities, the citizens of the United States retained their original right to continue all their pursuits by land and sea, at home and abroad, subject only to the Law of Nations. That, in pursuance of this policy, the laws of the United States did not forbid their citizens to sell to either of the belligerent Powers articles contraband of war, or to take munitions of war or soldiers on board their private ships for transportation, though in doing so the individual citizen exposed his property or person to some of the hazards of war. That the citizens of the United States had sold gunpowder and arms to all buyers without distinction; that their transports had been employed by England and France in conveying munitions of war and bringing home wounded soldiers; and that that involved no interruption of the friendly relations between the Governments of the United States and Russia. Such was the Message of the President, and it was to be observed that it went beyond the permission which was given to English subjects, because in our Foreign Enlistment Act the transport of troops and munitions of war to foreign belligerents was forbidden. He ventured to say that Her Majesty's Government, in declining to extend the scope of the Bill, not only acted upon a principle conformable to the Law of Nations, but were justified by the practice of those States which had been most careful to observe neutrality.

said, he regretted that the hon. Member for Hull should have expressed distrust or want of confidence in any individual Judge whatever. [Mr. NORWOOD was understood to disclaim any intention of doing so.] He regretted it the more because neither the Judge himself nor anyone in his behalf could possibly answer such an insinuation. In legislating Parliament could not inquire into the character of any member of the judicial Bench. There would be an appeal to the Privy Council in civil matters, and with regard to what the hon. Member had said about a jury, it was to be observed that criminal proceedings would still require a jury. In this country there was a large number of tribunals which decided upon matters of the greatest importance without a jury. He believed that questions involving three-fourths, at least, of all the property brought before the Courts were finally adjudicated upon by single Judges without the assistance of gentlemen in a box called a jury. One word as to the observations which had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt). He was very sory to hear quoted in that House as law the Message of any President of the United States. Such Messages were generally party productions, made and issued for party purposes, and with a view to the exigencies which might call them forth, and if we were to allow a Message issued by one President upon a particular occasion to be cited in our favour we could not in justice refuse to listen to a vast number issued by other Presidents which were decidedly not in our favour. Why, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself was obliged to admit that the Message from which he had quoted went beyond what, in our view of the Law of Nations, was lawful. Therefore, as a question of policy as well as of law, that Message was of no authority for us. He did not see why the Government should be precluded from entering into communications with other neutral nations upon this question, in order to extend the principles of this Bill to munitions of war. If Parliament wished now to give powers which, to some extent at least, exceeded those hitherto claimed by the Government, it must be admitted that, as the world wont on, modifications in what was called the Law of Nations were admissible.

said, he must deny the right of the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) to protest against this Bill as representing the mercantile class in this country, or as expressing their views. If there was one class more than another whose interests, if only properly understood, were involved in the success of the Bill, it was the mercantile body. There was none that had a greater interest in the preservation of peace. And yet that was the class whose interests the hon. Gentleman misrepresented. There was scarcely a single Member in the House who, seeing the evils of the present state of the law, did not desire to amend it. The hon. Gentleman had objected to the substitution of the jurisdiction of the Court of Admiralty for that of the Court of Exchequer. Now, he had some experience in this matter, and he believed that proceedings in the Court of Admiralty would be speedier, simpler, cheaper, and in every respect preferable.

Motion agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 4 (Penalty on enlistment in service of foreign state).

said, he would propose to leave out the words "not being a British subject, within Her Majesty's dominions," with a view to confine the prohibition to accept a commission or engagement, military or naval, in the service of any foreign State at war with any State at peace with Her Majesty, to British subjects.

Amendment agreed to.

said, he would beg to move in line 5, page 2, after the first word "or" to insert "whether a British subject or not within Her Majesty's dominions," the object being to prohibit any person, whether British subject or foreigner, from inducing another to take service from a foreign State.

said, it could not be intended that two or three Prussians meeting here and agreeing to go and fight against France should be within the penalties of this Act. The Amendment would meet a great part of the difficulty but not the whole of it.

said, that if foreigners wished to recruit for a nation at war they must not do so in this country.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

Clause 8 (Penalty on illegal shipbuilding and illegal expeditions).

said, he feared that the word "ship" would apply to vessels which were built without any intention of being used in war.

said, he could assure the hon. Member that it would apply only to ships which were to be used in military or naval operations.

said, the clause was intended to apply to ships to be employed in the service of foreign countries at war. He believed that it would include only ships of war. He thought the Government should endeavour in this clause to meet the case of vessels which were freighted from this country with coal, intended to be withdrawn from them for the use of the ships of war of a belligerent as it might be required. He considered that any friendly Power would have a right to complain if, when we were passing a Bill of this kind we did not prevent that which was to all intents and purposes a breach of the neutrality of this country. He would beg to move in line 21, after "ship," to insert—

"Either as a ship of war, transport, or for the conveyance of stores, coal, materials, or munitions to be used in the prosecution of hostilities."

said, he hoped the Amendment would not be accepted, as it would open a controversy into which it was not desirable for us, as neutrals, to enter at the present moment. We could not as neutrals decide the question whether coal was contraband of war or not. It was the right of the Courts of the belligerent Power to decide themselves what was contraband of war. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Dover (Mr. Jessel) as to the Message of the President of the United States being no authority, he might say that the practice of nations was laid down by their Executive Governments, and what they thus laid down must be regarded as binding precedents. Indeed, the policy of Washington in 1793 was the foundation of the whole of the modern practice on this point.

said, he also hoped the Amendment would not be agreed to. He would remind the Committee that this Act would furnish the text-book of our liabilities as neutrals, and it would not be wise of us to extend those liabilities.

said, he was afraid the effect of the Amendment would be to prevent the export of coal to the port of a belligerent.

said, he thought the Amendment went too far. It was quite enough if we condemned a transport or store-ship, and it would depend on the facts of each case whether a particular ship was a transport or a store-ship or not. He must object to the statement of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Staveley Hill) that this Act would furnish the text-book of our liabilities to other nations. He (the Attorney General) had distinctly stated on the second reading that the Bill was brought in for the purpose of enabling the Government to maintain the honour, dignity, and neutrality of England, and not for the satisfaction of foreign countries.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment proposed, at the end of the clause to add the words—

"Provided that a person building, causing to be built, or equipping a ship in any of the oases aforesaid, in pursuance of a contract made before the commencement of such war as aforesaid, shall not be liable to any of the penalties imposed by this section if he satisfies the conditions following (that is to say):
  • "(1.) If forthwith upon a Proclamation of Neutrality being issued by Her Majesty he gives notice to the Secretary of State that he is so building, causing to be built, or equipping such ship, and furnishes such particulars of the contract and of any matters relating to, or done, or to be done under the contract as may be required by the Secretary of State;
  • "(2.) If he gives such security, and takes and permits to be taken such other measures, if any, as the Secretary of State may prescribe for ensuring that such ship shall not be despatched, delivered, or removed without the licence of Her Majesty until the termination of such war as aforesaid."—(The Attorney General.)
  • said, he wished to express his satisfaction with the proposed addition to the clause, which to a great extent removed the difficulties he had felt on the subject of the shipbuilding trade.

    said, he must take exception to the word "security" in the 2nd section of the Amendment, which seemed to mean a money security. It was a severe demand to ask for a money security. A personal bond or undertaking ought to be sufficient, and he would suggest that the word "undertaking" should be substituted for "security."

    said, he could not agree with his hon. Colleague's (Mr. Graves's) suggestion. They must trust these matters a good deal to the Government of the day, otherwise the object in view — namely, to prevent the escape of the ship—might be defeated.

    said, he thought the shipbuilders might rely on the Secretary of State not wishing to exact a vindictive security.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, agreed to.

    Clause 9 (Presumption as to evidence in case of illegal ship).

    said, it was a very strong thing to seek to create by enactment a presumption in a criminal proceeding. What was a presumption? It was a moral conviction produced by the evidence of facts. Either the facts raised that presumption or they did not. If they did, an Act of Parliament was not required to do it; if they did not, they could not create a moral conviction by statute. The mouth of a person who was indicted was shut, and yet it was proposed that they should create a legal presumption against him, even although he was probably the only person who could rebut that presumption. They might be so severe as to defeat their own object, and juries would not convict unless the facts themselves created the presumption.

    said, he would suggest, in order to remove difficulties from the clause, that the words relating to the delivery of a ship to "the agent of a foreign State" should be altered to "any person who to the knowledge of the person building is an agent of such State."

    said, he did not object to this Amendment. That clause was an important one, for although proof might be given in a Court which amounted to a moral certainty, there were some Judges — and he was not blaming them — who would say to the prosecution—"You have not sufficient legal evidence; you have not adduced the proof which is required by law, and therefore the defendant must be acquitted." This description of legislation was by no means new. It had been adopted in the case of Government stores and in other cases with great advantage. Supposing you proved that the builder had taken an order to build a ship for a country at war, if you went a step further and proved that the ship had actually been employed in war you had a primâ facie case against the builder. Then what was the hardship on him? Could he not easily prove the circumstances under which he had taken the order? Wore ships ever built without written contracts? If a ship were built without such a contract, that fact of itself raised a strong presumption against the builder. The object in view was very important, and he hoped the Committee would agree to the clause.

    said, he admitted that the object in view was of great importance; but it was not unimportant that an innocent man should not be convicted. He thought that the presumption ought to be confined to cases of forfeiture of ships in which the builder of the ship could be examined. In a criminal proceeding against himself his mouth would be closed.

    said, he thought a fair solution of the difficulty might be found in giving the builder himself power to give evidence. He did not think, however, that innocent persons were at all likely to be proceeded against under this Bill, and he was of opinion that it would be better to err on the side of giving very stringent powers to the Court than on that of leaving an opening for disastrous breaches of the laws of neutrality.

    said, the clause was very stringent, and, with great respect to the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Rathbone), he must remark that when, in connection with the administration of the law, we spoke of too much stringency we referred to the amount of punishment. It never could be admitted that stringency was desirable in the sense of exposing innocent men to the chance of being convicted. A man might be prevented from calling witnesses. They might be abroad, where subpoenas would not touch them. The accused was to be acquitted if he proved that he did not know that the ship was to be employed in war; but how could he prove that negative.

    said, it would not occur in one case out of a thousand, that the builder of a ship would have the smallest difficulty in proving what his contract was, and under what circumstances it was undertaken.

    said, he would move, as an Amendment, to add the words—"except in any criminal proceeding," his object being to except from the operation of the clause cases in which the builder was put on his trial.

    Amendment proposed, in line 39, at the end of the Clause, to add the words "except in any criminal proceeding."—( Mr. Russell Gurney.)

    Question put, "That those words be there added."

    The Committee divided: — Ayes 26; Noes 73: Majority 47.

    Amendment negatived.

    Amendment ( Mr. Staveley Hill) agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, agreed to.

    Clauses 10 to 18, inclusive, agreed to.

    Clause 19 (Jurisdiction in respect of forfeiture of ships for offences against Act).

    said, he thought due regard should be had to individual rights, and that important questions of fact relating to forfeiture and condemnation of ships ought to be decided by a jury in a Superior Court of Law. Although the Attorney General had denied his right to speak in that House on behalf of the commercial community, with reference to this subject he might say that he had been sent there by a constituency (Hull) which sustained important relations with all the European States, and that he should speak for that commercial community to the utmost of his ability as a humble Member, notwithstanding that the Attorney General was opposed to him on this great question. With regard to the clause under consideration he should take the sense of the House upon it.

    said, he also strongly objected to the proposed removal of the jurisdiction to the Court of Admiralty. In the old Enlistment Acts no such clause as this was inserted, and he hoped the Committee would not ignore those impartial services of a jury which formed so valuable a consideration in carrying out a stringent law.

    said, as the only Member present of the Royal Commission which had considered this subject, he wished to say that the most important decision at which the Commissioners arrived was that of the question now under consideration. In their view the new system required to be placed under a new jurisdiction. The Court of Admiralty, having to decide questions of prize in time of war, was the best fitted to determine questions of neutrality. If this clause were omitted the Royal Commission would have sat in vain.

    said, he thought that cases which involved the question of peace or war should be tried by one of the Superior Courts without a jury; but it was questionable whether any single Judge ought to decide momentous questions, such, as those which might come under the operation of this Bill.

    said, he agreed with the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) that this was one of the most vital clauses in the Bill.

    said, he believed foreign nations would raise an objection to these questions being tried by any but the ordinarily recognized tribunal for prize matters, and, if they were allowed to be determined by a jury, would say that they were going to be decided by passions and prejudices. He thought the clause ought to stand.

    said, he wished to explain that the only matter on which he was at issue with the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) was not that the hon. Member had not the right to represent his commercial constituents, but that he was not the representative of that class who approved of the Bill. The question before the Committee had been considered with great attention by the Commissioners, who were of great legal weight and authority, and who had come to a unanimous conclusion upon it, and he hoped their decision would not be reversed. The proceedings in the Court of Admiralty would be more summary and cheaper. His own experience of the Court of Exchequer determining questions of this kind had led him to believe that it was desirable that the present jurisdiction should be changed.

    Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

    The Committee divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 14: Majority 91.

    Clause agreed to.

    Clause 20 agreed to.

    Clause 21 (Officers authorized to seize offending ships).

    said, the object of the clause was to prevent the escape of suspected ships from the harbours of the kingdom till the Secretary of State had been communicated with. The clause gave an ad interim power of seizure.

    said, the object was to give power to any officer who saw a ship about to escape to prevent such escape.

    said, he thought the unnecessary multiplication of such powers only tended to increase the risk of quarrels with other nations.

    said, he thought the powers given to officers were too extensive.

    said, the officers named would be able to seize a vessel without special instructions, in order that such vessel might not be allowed to escape It was a most important power; but it was only to be used in case of emergency, and if any wrong was done by the seizure there would be compensation.

    said, he wished to ask, was such stringent legislation in practice in any country of the world?

    said, the clause was copied from the Merchant Shipping Act, which had been in force for 20 years without any complaint.

    Clause agreed to.

    Remaining clauses agreed to.

    Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 258.]

    Gas And Water Facilities Bill

    Lords Amendments considered; several agreed to; one disagreed to.

    Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendment to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE, Mr. Secretary BRUCE, Mr. DODSON, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL for IRELAND, Lord JOHN HAY, Mr. JAMES LOWTHER, Mr. GRAVES, Mr. GLYX, and Mr. CAWLBY:—To withdraw immediately; Three to be the quorum.

    Reasons for disagreeing to Lords Amendment reported, and agreed to.

    To be communicated to The Lords.

    Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill

    On Motion of Mr. DODSON, Bill to apply a sum out of the Consolidated Fund to the Service of the year ending the thirty-first day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, and to appropriate the Supplies granted in this Session of Parliament, ordered to be brought in by Mr. DODSON, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, and Mr. STANSFELD.

    Bill presented, and read the first time.

    House adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.