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Merchant Shipping Bill—Bill 49

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 4 May 1876

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( Sir Charles Adderley, Mr. Edward Stanhope.)

committee. [ Progress 1 st May.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

New Clause.

Foreign Ships, Overloading.

(Application to foreign ships of provisions as to detention.)

"Where a foreign ship has taken on board all or any part of her cargo at a port in the United Kingdom, and is whilst at that port unsafe by reason of overloading, the provisions of this Act with respect to the detention of ships shall apply to that foreign ship as if she were a British ship, with the following modifications:
  • (1.) Sub-sections (4), (5), (6), and (7), of section five of this Act shall not apply;
  • (2.) A copy of order for the provisional detention of the ship shall be forthwith served on the consular officer for the State to which the ship belongs at or nearest to the place where the ship is detained;
  • (3.) If the owner or master of the ship is dissatisfied with the order for provisional detention the consular officer may, on his request and at any time within twenty-four hours after the service of the order on the master, appoint some competent person to survey the ship; and if on survey that person decides that the ship ought to be released, she shall be released accordingly,"—(Sir Charles Adderley,)
  • brought up, and read the first and second time.

    Amendment proposed, in line 1, after the word "ship," to insert the words "except ships belonging to such states as may from time to time signify their abjection to come under this law."—( Mr. Wilson.)

    Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

    Amendment negatived.

    moved, in line 2, after "of," to insert "unseaworthiness or." He said that the Government already had the power to detain foreign ships for being overloaded, and it was most desirable that they should also have the power to detain such vessels upon the ground that they were unseaworthy.

    said, he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member. It was enough to take power to stop foreign ships for being overloaded in our ports. That was a very different thing from dealing with them on defects of hull or equipment, which might or might not constitute unseaworthiness, according to their laws. Overloading was an offence committed in our ports against our law; but to stop a foreign ship which had committed no offence against our laws for defects of hull, machinery, or boilers would be a stretch of interference which he could not advise.

    said, he thought the President of the Board of Trade had exercised a wise discretion in drawing a line between "unseaworthiness" and "overloading." There were some foreign ships, however, which he wished the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to dealing with—namely, those British ships which had been transferred to foreign flags because they were rotten.

    said, he would be most willing to adopt any steps that would prevent the fraudulent transfers referred to by the hon. Member for Derby. He might state that Her Majesty's Government were every day receiving intimations from foreign Governments that they were taking measures to prevent the transfer of unseaworthy ships to their registers. An intimation to that effect had been received from Denmark yesterday.

    said, he thought it would be a serious thing if they treated English ships in one way and foreign ships in another. We must remember the very great importance of this trade, and it would indeed be a serious thing if by our legislation we injured that trade by transferring our cargoes into foreign bottoms over which we had no control.

    Amendment negatived.

    moved, in line 3, after "overloading," to insert "or improper loading," so that foreign vessels might be stopped for that as well as for overloading.

    said, he thought that there should at least be some explanation of what was meant by "improper loading."

    remarked that the great principle of this Bill was to prevent unseaworthy ships from going to sea, and so to reduce the amount of risk to life and property at sea. If our regulations were successful we should insure a preference being shown for British vessels all over the world, and by placing foreign vessels in our ports under British regulations we were doing the best thing we could for them, because we should be placing them upon an equality with our own ships. He trusted that foreign ship owners would fully understand and appreciate that fact, which must remove any objection to their vessels being subjected to our regulations.

    said, that unless the Amendment were adopted the clause would greatly disappoint the expectations that had been raised with regard to it.

    said, that the clause made provisions against overloading and improper loading, while some of the sub-sections dealt with the two things separately; and he thought that the provisions as to improper loading should be made plainer.

    said, that the words "improper loading" ought to be in- serted in the clause the same as it had been in other clauses of the Bill.

    said, that unsafe from improper stowage was one instance of unseaworthiness. He supported the Amendment.

    observed that overloading was at present restricted in the Bill to timber and wood goods. There were, however, other kinds of deck-loads that were very dangerous—such as steam-engines, thrashing-machines, &c. The Government had promised their attention to the subject, and in view of the instructions on the subject which the Board of Trade might issue, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board would do well to strengthen his hands by accepting the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite.

    said, that restricted as the words of the Amendment were, he should have no objection to their being inserted in the clause.

    Amendment agreed to; words inserted.

    said, that on the parts of the 5th clause which it was intended should not apply it would be convenient to discuss the propriety of establishing two tribunals, one for English and another for foreign ships. He would therefore move an Amendment to that effect. Every civilized country made foreigners when within its jurisdiction subject to its own tribunals.

    said, it was desirable to make the restrictions as little obnoxious to foreigners as possible.

    said, it was impossible to deal with the two classes alike. It would be unfair to refer the case of a foreign ship to a tribunal composed of English ship owners, and some reference to the foreign Consul was essential.

    said, the sub-section under discussion ought only to apply equally to British and foreign ships where the circumstances were parallel. He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham.

    said, there should be but one tribunal, and he could not see why the Board of Trade could not be trusted in the case of foreign as well as British ships. A foreign Consul, who probably would be a foreigner, would be led to decide in favour of the foreign ship because the cargo was loaded in accordance with the practice of his own country. He could not agree with the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham; but he hoped the subject would be re-considered by the Government.

    said, the sub-sections it was proposed to strike out were inserted in strictness for the purpose of affording means of punishing the owners for an offence, and for the purpose of giving power to the proper parties to ascertain if it was reasonable to detain the ship. It had been thought expedient in the case of foreign ships to give some person appointed by the Consul the right to ascertain whether the ship was in such a condition that she ought to be detained. It was not desirable to press too severely on foreigners.

    said, it was most important that the foreigner should have assurance through his Consul of receiving full protection in the tribunal. The main part of the clause was, therefore, correct.

    before the Amendment was withdrawn, would ask, supposing the German Government considered these impositions unjust and unfair and would not submit to them, and would not admit English shipping into their ports until the restrictions were withdrawn, in what position should we be placed?

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved, in subsection 3, line 3, to leave out "twenty-four hours," and insert "three days."

    Amendment agreed to.

    said, he thought the suggestion that a Consul should appoint a competent person to survey a foreign ship detained for unseaworthiness, and that if the person so appointed, who might not be impartial, was satisfied, the ship should be allowed to leave, would hardly be a satisfactory mode of dealing with the matter. He moved in sub-section 3, line 4, to leave out from "person" to end of Clause, and insert—

    "to accompany the Board of Trade surveyor to survey the ship, and if on survey they agree that the ship ought to be released she shall be released accordingly, and if they do not agree they shall appoint an assessor under the provisions of Clause 5, section 6, and the decision of the majority of them shall be final."

    observed, that it could hardly be considered satisfactory that when the Board of Trade surveyor had detained a ship on the ground that she was unsafe, the Consul should appoint any person whom he might consider to be competent, and that, on the dictum of that person, the ship should be released. One could imagine the abuses which might result from that proposal; and he thought, therefore, the Committee would do well to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. T. E. Smith). He thought, however, that the object which the hon. Gentleman had in view might be better secured if the words "is not unsafe" were substituted for "ought to be released." In that case the Board of Trade, if satisfied that the ship was not unsafe, might order her to be released.

    said, the issue was between the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. T. E. Smith) and one which he had put on the Paper. As the clause originally stood, the question of the detention of the foreign ship was to be decided by a competent person selected by the Consul. That was placing the decision almost wholly in the Consul, as he was to judge who was a competent person. What his Amendment proposed, therefore, was that the person appointed by the Consul should be subject to the approval of the Board of Trade. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for Tynemouth were adopted, it would require a little modification, because it said—

    "If they do not agree, they shall appoint an assessor, and the decision of the majority of them shall be final."
    The words "of them" referred grammatically to the surveyor of the Board of Trade and the person appointed by the Consul, and to speak of a majority in that case was not correct.

    said, that in their desire not to press too severely on foreigners, they must be careful that they did not give them an undue advantage over our fellow-countrymen. If the Consular surveyor and the Board of Trade surveyor differed in their judgments, an assessor was to be called in, and a majority was to decide, so that there would be two against one, which was hardly fair to the contending parties.

    said, the fact was that in this whole business they were proceeding in a very novel manner, and in one of a very delicate character. They had to consider two questions. The first was, whether they should give the final power of deciding that the ship should be released or not to the Consul. That was practically the proposal before the Committee. The second question was, as to whether they should adopt any system of appeal. If they decided upon adopting any system of appeal, he thought a better proposal than either of those before the Committee might be made. With regard to the proposal actually before the Committee, that a power should be given to the Consul to decide whether a ship ought or ought not to be detained, there were two reasons for introducing that power—namely, to obviate difficulties which might arise between our Government and foreign Governments in the working of the matter; and also to take out of the mouths of foreign Governments the power of charging us with unfairness to their ships. Because we should be always able to say that what we did was done not in the exclusive interests of British ships or with any sinister object, but for the purpose of enforcing a salutary rule in the case of our own as well as foreign ships. There was also another reason, which was that what we did towards foreigners we might expect foreigners would do towards us. While we felt perfect confidence in our own integrity there might be countries in which prejudice, and possibly interested motives, might prevail and operate against British ships in the ports of those countries. Therefore, in order to secure to British ship owners that protection which they might stand in need of in foreign ports, the Government thought it desirable to propose such a rule with regard to foreign ships in our ports as would enable us to claim the same protection for our own ships in foreign ports. These were the conditions which had induced the Government to make the proposal in this form, and he should have expected that ship owners trading to foreign ports would have thought it a proposal made for their benefit. On the other hand, there was the danger that Consuls might be too anxious to further the interests of their countrymen in respect of loading, and would neglect to take cognizance of cases in which they ought to interfere. Considering, however, that the Consul had a character at stake, it was not very probable that he would neglect his duty in many cases. The hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory) had suggested that the Consul should have the power, but should be restrained by having to nominate a competent person, approved by the Board of Trade, to accompany him in his survey; but it must be borne in mind that if they introduced that, they would introduce the interference of the Government in the matter. They would be no longer leaving it to foreign Governments to take care of their own officers, but would be introducing directly a representative of the English Government; and if there was to be reciprocity, English Consuls in foreign ports would be restrained by some official nominated by foreign Governments. Then there was the more elaborate proposal of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. T. E. Smith), the first part of which did not amount to much more than what the Government proposed to give to the British shipowner. It was proposed to give the Consul power to nominate some person to accompany the surveyor of the Board of Trade to survey a ship, and if they did not agree they might appoint an assessor. But how would it be if they should not agree as to the appointment of the assessor? He feared the proposal would be found inconvenient in practice. If they adopted the provision of appeal at all, he thought the more convenient way would be to accept the proposal already made by the Government, which provided that if the parties did not agree the matter should go to the Court of Survey, and in the case of the foreign ship, he would suggest that the second assessor might be appointed by the Consul. That would give a Court of Appeal, which would be on all fours with the proposal in regard to the British shipowner, and, at the same time, give sufficient standing to the Consul in the matter. The Government would be glad to hear what were the views of the ship owners on the subject, and he therefore commended it to their consideration. Meanwhile, he hoped the Committee would pass the clause in the shape in which the Government proposed it. Upon the whole, he thought it presented the greatest advantages; but if, upon consideration, it was thought more desirable that the suggestion he had shadowed forth should be adopted, it might be well for those interested to confer with the Government on the subject, and the matter might be considered on the Report.

    said, the matter had been very clearly put by the right hon. Gentleman; but he wished to point out that if foreign ships were to be placed on the same footing as British ships in this respect there must ultimately be a British jurisdiction, and the ultima ratio must rest with a British authority. This rule had already been laid down in the case of deck loading. All that would be done under the present clause would be practically to draw attention to the condition of the ship; and he hoped, therefore, that the matter would be considered by the Government before the Report.

    said, that he had just spoken to several shipowners in the House, and they were all of opinion that the proposition sketched out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be a very great improvement to the Bill. He therefore begged to withdraw his Amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause, as amended, agreed to, and added to the Bill.

    said, he had been urged, especially by seamen in the port of London, to make provision for Divine worship on board ship, and he proposed to do so by moving, after Clause 2,to insert the following clause:—

    (Observance of the Sabbath.)
    "All masters or officers in command of British merchant ships shall orderly and reverently perform the public worship of Almighty God in their respective ships, and shall take care that the Lord's Day be observed according to law."

    said, he thought this was one of the most extraordinary clauses ever put upon the Notice Paper, and he moved that it be not accepted. Suppose the master of a merchant ship were a Mohammedan or a "Jumper," was that the "orderly" form of worship which was to be conducted? He would suggest to the hon. and gallant Member to add to his proposal "that every merchant ship should have a chaplain, and that he should be paid by Honduras bonds or loans."

    said, that the object of this clause was a good one, but, unfortunately, it was a subject on which they could not legislate. The Government had no more right to regulate worship in a private ship than in a private house. The Queen could make such regulations or whatever she pleased in her own ships.

    remarking that he objected to any Member of the House throwing ridicule upon a proposal like this, said, it was the law of the land in Sweden and Norway, where all vessels were obliged to have Divine service on Sundays; and he did not see why we should be behind Sweden and Norway in this matter.

    observed, that the opening clause of the Naval Discipline Act began with almost the identical words which he had put into his clause, and he did not see why the regulation in the merchant service should not be the same as in Her Majesty's Navy.

    Clause negatived.

    next moved the following clause:—

    (Foreign masters and officers.)
    "All applicants for examination as masters, mates, and engineers, if of foreign birth, must produce papers of naturalization, showing that the applicant has been for the full period of three years in the exercise of the rights of British subjects before admission for examination."

    opposed the clause, because it put an unfair restriction on British owners, and would be a protective law in the very worst sense. He saw no reason why an owner should be prevented from employing a Norwegian or American captain if he thought proper. The restriction of ownership to British subjects was a necessary provision for the nationality and identification of the ship.

    remarked that as the object of the Bill was to diminish the loss of human life at sea, the Committee would make short work of extraneous matters.

    Clause negatived.

    moved, after Clause 5, to insert the following clause:—

    (Constitution of Local Marine Boards.)
    "In lieu of the constitution of Local Marine Boards, as provided by section one hundred and ten of 'The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854,' such Local Marine Board shall be constituted as follows (that is to say): the mayor or provost and stipendiary magistrate or such of the mayors or provosts and stipendiary magistrates of the place, if more than one, as the Board of Trade appoints, shall be a member or members ex officio. The Board of Trade shall appoint two members from persons residing or having places of business at the port or within seven miles thereof, and the owners of foreign going ships and home passenger ships registered at the port shall elect two members, and masters and mates holding certificates of competency and residing at the port or within seven miles thereof shall elect two members, and able seamen residing in the port or within seven miles thereof shall elect two members; but except as hereby altered the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 with respect to such elections and otherwise shall remain in force."
    The hon. Gentleman said, the seamen of this country were treated in one sense as children, and in another as criminals, and were in that way demoralized. By this clause he hoped to inaugurate a better state of things, and by recognizing seamen as fellow-citizens, to induce more friendly feeling between shipowners and their men.

    said, no man spoke with more weight, and there was no Member whose opinions he was more anxious to receive on a subject like this, than those of the hon. Member for Newcastle. The object of the clause was an exceedingly good one; but, upon consideration, he was afraid it was impossible to carry it out. Taxation and representation, he agreed, ought to go together; but, in order to carry out the principle, there must be a positive local constituency, which did not exist in this case. Able seamen were always on the move, and mates and other officers, if fit for anything, would certainly be absent on the days of elections. The elaborate provisions in the Act of 1854 for the existing constituency show the impossibility of making a constituency of the proposed kind.

    said, he thought it would have a most beneficial effect that there should be a certain number of persons representing the views of seamen on those Boards. The shipowners and they would by that means be enabled to come to more satisfactory understanding of one another's views.

    considered that there would be in most, if not all, of the ports a sufficient number of seamen to elect officials of the Marine Board, and therefore he should support the clause.

    contended that the arguments showed that the Marine Boards were effete. The amount of work which they did was so small that they ought to be re-constituted. The feeling of the seamen that they had no representatives was one which was very keenly felt. He hoped the clause would be accepted by the right hon. Gentleman, subject to Amendments which might be proposed.

    said, he was very much struck with the statement that the proposed Marine Board was impracticable, and that the Boards, as they existed, were altogether objectionable. They seemed to be all shipowners, and nobody had confidence in them.

    hoped that the Government would see their way to accept the clause, which he intended to vote for in the event of a division.

    said, it was very desirable to popularise the Act by giving seamen an interest in the election of Marine Boards, and he hoped that the Government would be able in some way to accede to the wishes of the Committee.

    said, if a more popular element could be introduced into the constituency it would be good in itself. He agreed that the principle of the clause was good, but he did not see how it could be carried into effect. If he could find any means to do so—though he would not give any pledge to the Committee—he would, on the Report, bring up a clause of the sort, and one which should be in harmony with the provisions of the Act of 1854.

    urged the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. Cowen) to persist with his clause, as at present masters' mates and seamen had no direct representation in the management of their affairs. He contended that greater powers ought to be conferred upon the Local Marine Boards. Their duties at present were nominal and useless.

    said, the clause would remove a sense of injustice which existed in the minds of the seamen, and he hoped that his right hon. Friend would accept it. He approved of it in principle, and he trusted it would be adopted, especially as it was supported in all parts of the Committee.

    explained that if the clause were read a second time it must become part of the Bill. If it were withdrawn, he would, if possible, bring up a clause on the Report in a more perfect form. The clause, as proposed, would be wholly ineffective for its purpose, and would merely express a wish without effect.

    said, that he was not wedded to this particular clause, but another containing the same principle would be quite satisfactory to him. If seamen had a right to vote for Marine Boards, those ill-feelings which now existed would be removed.

    Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved, in page 6, after Clause 11, to insert the following Clause:—

    (Complaint of unseaworthiness to be verified by affidavit.)
    "No ship shall be detained under the provisions of this Act, on the complaint of any person, other than the Board of Trade, or a detaining officer, except such complaint is in writing and specifies the nature of the alleged unseaworthiness, and is verified by the affidavit of the person preferring such complaint."
    He did so because, after mature consideration of this matter, he believed it to be necessary that some greater security should be given to the shipowner against groundless complaints of unseaworthiness.

    said, if it were necessary to make an affidavit the Bill would be utterly lost; and if the power of stopping rotten ships from going to sea were to be put in motion by affidavit, they might as well throw the Bill out at once.

    pointed out that a clause similar in principle had been discussed and objected to by the Committee. The effect of the clause would be to throw obstacles in the way of information being given, and although the Board of Trade already knew a ship was rotten, they would have no power to stop her without an affidavit.

    said, that the question was discussed on the 5th clause, and he had promised then to introduce words in the Report which he thought would meet the views of his noble Friend.

    understood that the promise made was that the owner of a ship should have information that it was intended to detain his ship, but that was different from what the noble Lord now required. The power now exercised by the Board of Trade had been possessed since 1871, and it should be shown that some practical difficulty existed before it was abrogated.

    said, he did not see why shipowners should be put to inconvenience and exposed to injuries in a manner different from any other class of the community. He supported the clause because everybody knew how easily charges might be preferred against a man on hearsay evidence, and how seriously a man might be injured by such rumours. This mode, at all events, was not the present practice in England. It would be much better to have sworn information.

    thought the clause would afford what was only a reasonable and proper protection to the shipowner. He hoped it would be accepted, particularly if Clause 5, which was postponed, were allowed to become part of the Act.

    said, from whatever source the information came the Board of Trade would act on its own risk, and if wrong would be liable to an action for compensation to the owner. A man might have good reason for suspecting the unseaworthiness of a ship, but he might be utterly unable to produce an affidavit on the subject.

    said, he could not accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's opinion on that point.

    supported the clause as containing, in his opinion, a proposal which was only fair and moderate. If the noble Lord went to a division upon it he should vote with him.

    Clause negatived.

    moved, after Clause 13, page 8, to insert the following Clause:—

    (Surveyor shall not alter structure of ship without consent of owner.)
    "No surveyor or inspector when inspecting or examining any vessel under the authority of any of the Merchant Shipping Acts shall, for the purposes of such inspection or examination, cut, maim, or in any way interfere with the structural condition of the ship without the permission of the owner or master in writing."

    was of opinion that, although the object of the noble Lord was a good one, the clause was unnecessary.

    said, that if the clause were confined to the preliminary survey it would be both reasonable and proper.

    said, the clause proposed that the officer sent on board to examine the ship should not be permitted to interfere with the hull as it stood. If such a clause were agreed to the House might as well drop the Bill.

    said, there must be some means of getting at the timbers, if the survey were to be worth anything.

    pointed out that the surveyors of the Board could only remove planks on their own responsibility, and unless they were allowed to do so there would not be sufficient check upon a rotten ship being sent to sea which had been made up to look well externally. Lloyd's surveyors always had that power, and if the surveyors of the Board had not the same power their certificates would be worthless.

    said, he had no objection to insert the words "such preliminary examination" in the fourth line.

    thought it dangerous to restrict the powers of the surveyor of the Board of Trade. If these powers were restricted, the Act of 1871 and the provisions of the present Bill would be nugatory. It had not been shown that any misuse had been made of their powers by the Board of Trade surveyors.

    said, that the clause at first was wholly untenable. It was now proposed to confine it to the preliminary examination, and he should like to say a few words on this point. The preliminary examination was instituted after complaint had been made, or when the Board of Trade had reason to think that a vessel was unseaworthy. When the surveyor was sent to make a preliminary examination he naturally looked about for any symptoms of unsoundness, and it was just where the internal rottenness was concealed by boards that this "cutting and maiming" was absolutely necessary. Where a suspected beam was covered over by boards the surveyor probed the boards over the beams, and if there were signs of rottenness beneath cut out a larger portion in order to examine the beam more thoroughly. If they were to tell the surveyor that he must not, without the consent of the owner, cut away the boards which the owner might have placed over the unsound timbers to conceal defects, they might as well put an end at once to the inspection of the Board of Trade. It was possible that the surveyors might make occasional mistakes; but it was always at the risk of the Government, and if any damage were done compensation would always be given. Such a clause, however, would neutralize the whole effect of inspection.

    said, that the responsibility of the Board of Trade meant this—that the shipowner was at liberty to go to law with the Government; and what position was that for a poor man?

    Clause negatived.

    moved, in page 8, after Clause 13, to insert the following Clause:—

    (Exemption of certain steamers from passenger certificates.)
    "Any steam ship may carry passengers not exceeding twelve in number although she has not been surveyed by the Board of Trade as a passenger ship, and does not carry a Board of Trade certificate as provided by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 with respect to passenger steamers."
    The provisions made for the protection of the lives of seamen were sufficient to protect the lives of the passengers.

    accepted the clause, which adopted an existing distinction among passenger ships called short ships, remarking that if steamers carried so few passengers they did not lose their character as cargo steamers, and were not in the eye of the law passenger ships.

    Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.

    moved a clause providing that certificates should not be granted to passenger ships unless they were provided with lifeboats and deck rafts sufficient to save all on board in case of disaster or shipwreck.

    New Clause—( Colonel Beresford,)— brought up, and read the first time.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

    believed that the clause would not effect the object which his hon. and gallant Friend had in view. In the great disasters which had occurred lately all the boats on board had not been used. In very rare cases had the boats been of any use. But suppose a ship wrecked in the middle of the Atlantic, with all the lifeboats and deck rafts proposed by the clause on board, and that all the passengers were lowered safely into them, what would become of them? They would simply be starved and die by inches instead of being drowned in the ship. Boats and rafts were useful to take passengers to any near shore, or ship, by relays such as there were seamen enough to manage: but more boats than there were men to manage were useless. A great number of boats and rafts would be the worst kind of deck-loading, and would impede the working and navigation of the ship. He considered that the existing law and the powers possessed by the Board of Trade were sufficient to effect the purpose in view. One Act stated a proportion of boats to tonnage very ample, if not excessive; and another Act enabled the Board of Trade to alter the scale, or to substitute rafts or life-boats.

    said, the right hon. Baronet had little experience at sea, or he would not have opposed the clause on such grounds. Common experience showed that there was a lamentable deficiency of life-saving appliances.

    agreed that in many cases—perhaps in 99 cases out of 100—boats proved useless, but rafts would not be open to the same objections, and would not be liable to be stove in as boats were in being lowered. There were rafts which could be easily stowed that were fitted up in the centre so as to carry preserved meats whereby people might be kept alive for a long time. Of course, there was no necessity for any alteration if the argument of the right hon. Gentleman were sound, and if it were better for the passengers to be drowned at once instead of dying a lingering death in the boats.

    considered that the subject was deserving of the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade. There had been many cases in which the knowledge that the boat accommodation on board a passenger ship was utterly insufficient had led to scenes which were revolting to their common humanity. The sailors, entirely regardless of the lives of the passengers, rushed frantically to the boats to save themselves. In his judgment, the proper mode of meeting the difficulty was to reduce the number of emigrants on board each vessel.

    remarked that if the proposal were carried into execution it would be impracticable to have on board a crew sufficiently large to man the boats, or even to lower them. Even if the passengers were got in, the only difference would be that they would be drowned in the boats, instead of being drowned in the ship.

    was of opinion that if a couple of rafts were substituted for two of the large boats now used, the change would conduce to the saving of life in passenger steamers.

    suggested that the clause should be amended by adding the words "deck rafts or other approved means of saving life."

    pointed out that, as regarded passenger ships, there were already in existence very minute regulations with reference to the number of boats to be carried on board.

    opposed the proposition of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. Steamers were already compelled to carry more boats than could be properly stowed, and heavy boats getting adrift and damaging hatchways were a real source of danger. The same objections did not equally apply to rafts; but he (Mr. Mac Iver) had no great faith in life-saving apparatus of any kind. There were exceptions to all rules; but, upon the whole, he thought ships' boats had lost more lives than ships' boats would ever save.

    while thinking that the regulations respecting boats on emigrant ships went far enough, was of opinion that in many cases life-buoys would be an effective means of saving life. In the case of the North fleet many persons would have been saved if they could have kept afloat half-an-hour. He recommended, therefore, that something should be done towards providing ships with life-buoys in larger numbers.

    said, he did not suggest any hard-and-fast line in reference to the proposal contained in the clause before the Committee.

    Question put.

    The Committee divided:—Ayes 46; Noes 103: Majority 57.

    moved, after Clause 13, to insert the following Clause:—

    (Colonial certificates for passenger ships.)
    "Where the legislature of any British possession provides for the survey of and grant of certificates for passenger steamers, and the Board of Trade report to Her Majesty that they are satisfied that the certificates arc to the like effect, and are granted after a like survey, and in such manner as to be equally efficient with the certificates granted for the same purpose in the United Kingdom under the Acts relating to Merchant Shipping, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty by Order in Council—
  • 1. To declare that the said certificates shall be of the same force as if they had been granted under the said Acts; and
  • 2. To declare that all or any of the provisions of the said Acts which relate to certificates granted for passenger steamers under those Acts shall, either without or with such modification as to Her Majesty may seem necessary, apply to the certificates referred to in the Order; and
  • 3. To impose such conditions and to make such regulations with respect to the said certificates, and to the use, delivery, and cancellation thereof as to Her Majesty may seem fit, and to impose penalties not exceeding fifty pounds for the breach of such conditions and regulations. Upon the publication in the 'London Gazette' of any such Order in Council the provisions therein contained shall, after the date of the Order or any later date mentioned in the Order, take effect as if they had been contained in this Act. It shall be lawful for Her Majesty in Council to revoke, alter, or add to any Order made under this section."
  • Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.

    in rising to move after Clause 19, to insert the following Clause:—

    (Seamen's dietary.)
    "Seamen employed in British ships engaged in foreign trade shall be supplied with provi- sions according to the Second Schedule to this a Act annexed. The Board of Trade may add to or vary such scale, or the substitutes mentioned in the said Schedule, from time to time, as they may think fit. The scale for the time being in force shall have effect as if it were inserted in the seaman's agreement; but nothing herein shall affect any agreement for additional provisions,"
    observed, that as a general desire had been expressed that all legislation relating to seamen should be postponed until the next Session, it was not his intention to press the clause on the subject of dietary of which he had given Notice. He would, therefore, take advantage of the present opportunity to make a short statement on the subject. He must, in the first place, complain of the delay in the publication of a valuable Report which the Board of Trade had lately received from Dr. Leech, who had been employed by the Government to inquire into some recent and painful cases of scurvy. Being unable to refer to the latest information which had been collected, he must avail himself of the Report, published in 1867 by Admiral Ryder, as Chairman of the Committee of the Society for Improving the Condition of Merchant Seamen. We had another important official Report, made in 1872, by the surgeon to the Seamen's Hospital at Callao. Scurvy was, and for many years past had been, practically unknown in the Royal Navy. It was a disease which could be effectually prevented, and great progress had been made in that direction under recent legislation. In the last Report from the Dreadnought Hospital it was stated that in 1855, 159 cases of scurvy were admitted, and that 661 were treated from 1856 to 1863 inclusive. During the past eight years only 219 cases had been admitted. He regretted to say, however, that there had been this year a serious increase in the number of cases of scurvy. He would now turn to the Report of Dr. Roe, surgeon to the British Seamen's Hospital at Callao, which had been prepared in reply to the Circular Letter of inquiry as to the condition of merchant seamen issued by the Board of Trade in 1872. No medical man had a larger personal experience than Dr. Roe, and his Report was not as favourable as the statement issued by the Committee of the Dreadnought. Dr. Roe reported that from 1865 to 1869, 251 cases of scurvy were admitted to the hospital at Callao from 57 British vessels, 13 of these ships sending nine cases and upwards. He said that inquiries instituted into these cases established the inadequacy of the diet usually given to seamen, even where supplemented by the anti-scorbutics specified by the Act of 1857, scurvy having occurred only in the cases of the vessels in which the scale of dietary prescribed by that Act was adopted. Dr. Roe stated that scurvy was essentially starvation, the salt beef and salt pork, which constituted the chief food of the seamen, not containing the amount of nourishment, which it was supposed to contain. He specially insisted on the benefit derived from the use of preserved potatoes, a food which he said was an absolute preventive of scurvy, but which was rarely provided in sufficient quantity to merchant seamen. He (Mr. Brassey) had seen the dietary used in the vessels of Mr. Wigram, of London, and of Mr. Beazley, of Liverpool. It included a certain quantity of preserved potatoes, and he understood that no cases of scurvy occurred in their ships. He was not anxious for legislation in the details of the ship owner's business. Admiral Ryder had suggested that the Board of Trade should not allow a scale of rations to be printed, with fixed quantities; but that they should insist that in every scale of dietary headings should be inserted including those articles of food which experience had proved to be the most effective anti-scorbutics. He ventured to hope that this suggestion would be adopted, and that an intimation would be made on the part of the Board of Trade that a shipowner would be held responsible if it were proved before any future Court of Inquiry into cases of scurvy that he had failed to supply the necessary amount of preserved vegetables, in addition to the salt meat and lime-juice already insisted upon. The subject was one of great importance, and he thought it his duty to bring it under the consideration of the Committee.

    confirmed what had fallen from the hon. Member for Hastings by citing the instance of a ship, well found and very well commanded, and engaged in the Australian trade, in which there was no such thing as preserved meat known on board nor any lime-juice served out. He was told that cases of scurvy were known to have occurred under the circumstances to which he referred. The eating of puddings made with the fat skimmed from the water in which the salt beef was boiled was also a fruitful source of scurvy. He hoped the Government would see their way to accept some such suggestion as that offered by the hon. Member for Hastings.

    while ready to accept the scale of provisions proposed by the hon. Member for Hastings, thought it would be better to leave it to be dealt with by the shipowners themselves, who knew that if their crews were affected with scurvy the loss would fall upon them.

    said, he was glad to have heard the very important statement made by the hon. Member for Hastings, though the clause was scarcely within the scope of the Bill. He should be sorry to express any opinion on the part of the Board of Trade on the very important subject of scurvy, because it was one now under their very grave consideration, and they hoped before long to be able to make a Report upon it. He had compared some dietaries of ships, and thought most of them were even better than those proposed by the hon. Member for Hastings's second Schedule. Dietaries ought not to be matters of a rigid Act of Parliament, because they required to be different in different voyages, seasons, and seas. Those dietaries were entered in the articles of agreement which the seamen saw, and had every facility for complaining against.

    stated that a great deal of scurvy was caused by the use of what was called store provisions. A large quantity of meat that had been in store for seven years at Gibraltar and Malta was yearly sent home, and was sold by the dockyard authorities to parties who put it into fresh pickle and then sold it to shipowners for the victualling of their ships. He was told that when the casks of meat were opened at Deptford, the coopers were obliged to hold their noses, the meat was so offensive. He had moved for a Return of those sales, but had not as yet received it. If the provisions were not fit for human food they ought to be destroyed; but if they were fit they should be served out to the men of the Royal Navy. It seemed to him disgraceful to the Government of a country like this, that for the sake of a few shillings it should issue meat which was unfit for human food, to spread disease and death wherever it found its way. He had instructed his agents to buy the first lots offered for sale at Plymouth and Portsmouth. He would buy them for the purpose of making a show of them, and he would send portions to every Member of Her Majesty's Government, reserving a Benjamin's portion for the Prime Minister. It was too bad that ships out for 190 days in the Pacific should be supplied with such food. He had known a ship beating for two months together off San Francisco, with her crew too weak to bring her in, and waiting for fresh hands. Twelve men died on board that ship. He should not have far to go to name her owner; but he would not go into that at that time. He thought the practice was utterly indefensible, and he hoped the Government would take effective steps to put an end to it.

    said, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) laboured under a mistake. The meat that was sold was not condemned meat. It was issued under a certain number of years' warrant, and what happened to be left after the cruise was disposed of. He traced the prevalence of scurvy on board ship in many cases not to want of fresh meat, but of greens.

    said, that the hon. Member for Hastings(Mr. Brassey) did not want to have a scale of diet laid down by the Board of Trade, but that when a ship was leaving a British port for a long voyage the Board of Trade should see that the provisions both in kind and amount were fit for the purpose. He objected to the condemned stores of the Government being sold for human food. The prevalence of scurvy on ship board was very much owing to the large employment of Lascars and other foreign sailors, who were rather dirty in their habits and were more accustomed to a vegetable than a meat diet in their own country. Bad water, such as that taken in at Kurrachee, which was a mere puddle, was also a great cause of scurvy; but an easy remedy might be found for that in a cheap process of distillation. There was no scurvy in the Navy where the water was distilled. Potatoes were a valuable food to prevent scurvy; but preserved vegetables were of little use, as they were as hard as a board, and required 40 hours' boiling, which they were not likely to receive from the ship's cook. Preserved vegetables were worthless rubbish. The Government would, he trusted, put an end to a state of things which was a fruitful source of disease in the merchant service.

    said, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) had alluded to ships at San Francisco, one of which evidently belonged to him (Mr. Bates). He had owned, sailed, and managed ships since 1849; he had had 103 vessels, registered over 120,000 tons. During that time he had employed in his ships from 25,000 to 30,000 men, and until the ship alluded to by the hon. Member for Derby he had never he believed lost a man from scurvy in his life. The men on board the Bremen, the vessel alluded to, were not Lascars, but negroes. There was a Consular inquiry at the captain's request at San Francisco. The ship and provisions were fully examined, and the report was that the provisions were far above the average usually supplied to ships. The ship had now arrived in Liverpool. The captain maintained that not a man had died from scurvy. The report stated that three did not, and that two others died from causes which had nothing to do with scurvy, and there was a difference of opinion about the remainder—one doctor asserting that it was not scurvy and two others that it was. If the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) or any other hon. Gentleman could show shipowners how to prevent scurvy they would be glad to hear their plan. Since the case of the Bremen he had a list of 24 vessels—not his—which had arrived atSan Francisco and other ports suffering from scurvy; and at the present moment 12 or 14 ships, the crews of which were so suffering, had arrived in England. He had three or four other ships thus affected, and there was to be a Board of Trade inquiry. As to two, the report showed that the provisions on board were unexceptionable. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) said that condemned stores out of the Navy were sold and put on board merchant ships. He believed that nothing of the sort occurred. At all events, he could speak for himself. During the quarter of a century in which he had conducted business as a shipowner, had never had on board of one of his vessels a cask of beef or pork condemned from the Navy or any other service, either directly or indirectly. He was quite ready to prove this before any Committee which might be appointed by the House. As to the Report which had been promised, he hoped that the Admiralty would get it out as soon as possible. Something had been said about preserved potatoes. He had had them on board his ships, and had found that the crews would not eat them; and as to preserved meats, he was inclined to think there must be something in the manner in which these meats were cured that had brought about scurvy in the Mercantile Marine. It was only within the last two or three years that these numerous cases of scurvy occurred. Then an hon. Member had spoken of "slush." He believed that to be a very fruitful source of scurvy, and in the case of the Bremen it was found utterly impossible to keep the black men from it. They mixed it with biscuits, and concealed it in the galley until they could get an opportunity to cook and eat it. Until a month before arriving at San Francisco the captain knew nothing about it, he then prohibited the men from using it. He had heard something said about preserved vegetables which took 40 hours to boil. They were the same as were supplied to Her Majesty's troops in the Abyssinian and Crimean Expeditions. A portion of these vegetables from one of his ships had been sent to the Board of Trade, who pronounced them to be perfectly palatable and nutritious, but requiring a good deal of water in cooking. This was the difficulty. The men liked them for a time; and he believed that, if properly cooked, as they were in the Abyssinian and Crimean Expeditions, they were to some extent preventives of scurvy. This disease, however, was not wholly dependent on diet. Filth tended greatly to scurvy, and there was sometimes the greatest difficulty in getting men to wash themselves. If in the course of these inquiries any remedy for scurvy could be suggested, shipowners would be only too delighted to adopt it. It did not pay shipowners who did not insure to the value of a shilling, as was his case in the Bremen, not to keep their crews in as good health as they could.he

    regretted the personal attacks which were from time to time made in the House. By mere accident last year he heard from one of the leading shipowners and mercantile houses in London that the vessels owned by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates) were amongst the best found in every respect and a credit to the Mercantile Marine of the country.

    trusted the Committee would not proceed further with this subject after the highly satisfactory and very candid statement of the hon. Member for Plymouth, and he thought his hon. Friend was quite justified in making that statement. After what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Palmer), who was well able to speak on the subject, he hoped the Committee would bear in mind that there were two or three important clauses still to discuss.

    regretted that no Member of the Government had offered any explanation as to those alleged sales of condemned provisions by the Admiralty, and their subsequent purchase as food for use on board merchant ships. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates), by saying that he never purchased any for his ships, thereby expressed his condemnation of them. Their description as articles whose term of guarantee had expired, would not render them any more palatable to the crews that had to eat them. If such food was not fit for consumption in the Navy, the Admiralty ought to consider that it was not fit for consumption in the merchant service or elsewhere. These provisions were often consumed by men 2,000 miles from land, and they had no opportunity of bringing the culprits—for they were nothing less—before the sanitary authority. A tradesman who sold articles unfit for the food of man was fined, and in some cases sent to prison for so doing; but he supposed a right hon. Gentleman would hardly be sent to prison for doing such an act.

    reminded the hon. Member that his observations were hardly pertinent to the question before the Committee.

    said, that with all due respect he thought they were. It could not be denied that in selling these stores the Government sold articles unfit for human food. He certainly did expect that the President of the Board of Trade would have taken notice of the point raised by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll).

    said, the hon. Member had spoken as if the practice of selling damaged provisions was a matter which the Government were disposed to treat lightly, but that was not the case. The First Lord of the Admiralty was not in the House, but the matter was quite as new to the Government as it was to hon. Members. It was certainly a matter for inquiry, and it would be necessary for the Government to inquire into the very serious allegations that had been made, and if there were any truth in them then the system ought to be stopped. But this clause, if passed, would have no bearing upon that, and it would be much better that they should be allowed to go on with the Bill, and attention called to this subject as a separate matter.

    said, that after the statement which had been made by the President of the Board of Trade, he would withdraw his proposal.

    Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved, after Clause 25, to insert the following clause:—

    (Conditional advance notes illegal.)
    "Any document authorizing or promising, or purporting to authorize or promise, the future payment of money on account of a seaman's wages conditionally on his going to sea, and made before those wages have been actually earned, shall be void; no moneys paid in satisfaction or in respect of any such document shall be deducted from his wages, and no person shall have any right of action, suit, or set-off against the seaman or his assignee in respect of any moneys so paid, or purporting to have been so paid: Provided, That nothing in this section shall invalidate or affect any allotment note duly made under 'The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854.' "
    The hon. Member explained that his clause would not forbid advances in any form so long as payment was immediate and not deferred. Advances might be necessary—he did not say they were not; but what he proposed was to forbid for the future the present system of advancing by advance notes, a system which had existed for only 35 years. The advance note was a conditional promise to pay a certain sum of money to a seaman, but only on condition that be went to sea in a particular ship and at a specified time. Having this note the seaman endeavoured to cash it. A respectable tradesman would not cash it for him, and he was obliged to go to what was called a "crimp." The "crimp" eagerly took the note, and cashed it at a heavy discount. He was willing to do so because he was in a position either by himself or by the aid of his fellows to secure the performance of the condition. What the "crimp" bad to do was to see the man on board the ship he had engaged to sail in, and the course generally adopted was to indulge him in drink and debauchery until the time arrived for the departure of the vessel, when it not unfrequently occurred that he was taken on board in a state of insensibility, produced by excessive or bad liquor. The consequence was that the seaman's health and vigour were impaired by this practice, which was also a fruitful source of danger to the shipowner. A great number of shipwrecks occurred during the first 24 hours of the voyage, when the navigation was dangerous and the crews unfit for duty, and many seamen were led to desert in order to "sell" the crimp whom they felt had robbed them, and could not get his money if the sailors gave the ship the slip before it left port. It was also the interest of the "crimp" to induce seamen to desert in order to supply their places; and the evidence taken by the Royal Commission went to show that the "crimp" could not exist without the mischievous system of advance notes. In Belgium, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russian Finland, and other countries, the advance note was unknown. One exception, however, was made in German ships trading to English ports. In those cases they gave two months' advance, the first in cash, the second in the form of an advance note only payable when the ship left England. The ostensible reason for the advance note system was to enable the seaman to provide his "kit;" but that end, in fact, was not attained, and could be attained by a different arrangement. The real reason why a certain class of shipowners clung to this system was to save them- selves trouble. The crimps were paid agents of the shipowners, but were paid not by the shipowner, but out of the wages of the seaman. The Royal Commission had, upon an enormous quantity of evidence, unanimously recommended the abolition of the advance note system. Her Majesty's Government, too, had shown by the clause which they had introduced into their Bill last year that they disapproved the system, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken very strongly against it. Beyond that he had the authority of the Liverpool Seamen's Protection Society, who had sent a Petition to that House, for saying that the abolition of advance notes was desirable, and would make the men more prudent and tend to prevent drunkenness; while a Committee of the Liverpool Shipowners' Association had stated that, in their opinion, advance notes given in the United Kingdom ought to be rendered illegal. He might also be allowed to quote the evidence on the subject of the Superintendent of the Glasgow Sailors' Home, who stated that after long practical experience he had come to the conclusion that the seaman would be greatly benefited if advance notes were done away with, and that he felt satisfied the inconvenience arising from their abolition would be only temporary. If his proposal were adopted, the tendency to desert, which might be mentioned as an objection to it, might be met by a simple system of registration; for he saw no reason why shipowners should not keep a register of seamen, the result of which would be that they would soon find that if they wanted advances they must be trustworthy persons. Why should there not, too, be allotment notes issued, made payable to anybody, and not merely to the relatives of the seamen? The advantage of such notes would be that, being payable on presentation to the shipowner, they might be discounted at a moderate rate. Advance notes were, in the language of Mr. O'Dowd before the Royal Commission, the friends of improvidence and the promoters of vice. He was perfectly convinced that, as the best mode of preserving life and property at sea was to secure seaworthy seamen, so the first means necessary to raise their seamen was to get them out of the hands of the "crimp." He concluded by moving the clause.

    Clause—( Mr. Evelyn Ashley,)— brought up, and read the first time.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

    Sir, I must express my regret that the hon. Member for Poole has been induced to attempt to introduce into the Bill—the clauses of which we have been considering—my old friend of last Session, the clause abolishing advance notes. I venture to think, and I say it without meaning any offence, the hon. Gentleman knows little of the subject, or I am sure he would not attempt to take away from his friends the sailors, for whose welfare he is so solicitous—what I say and what I think I shall prove to the Committee, if not to him—is that which they cannot do without, especially in sailing ships about to make a long voyage. Now, Sir, it is nearly 44 years since I first became connected with sailors—that connection has existed up to this day—therefore I think the Committee will think I ought to know something of them and their requirements. Well, Sir, with this knowledge I do conscientiously believe that we cannot in justice to our sailors in general abolish advance notes until we have found a substitute for them. All I can say is I have given the subject my best consideration, and I confess I am unable to find a substitute that we can avail ourselves of for the present. Education may hereafter cure the evil—I sincerely trust this will be so—but what is to be the substitute for the present time, this is the question—and, as already said I am not able to come to any satisfactory conclusion, but I think I shall show the Committee good and sufficient reasons why it would be not only impolitic, but positively harsh and cruel, to pass the clause brought forward by the hon. Member for Poole. First, let me say, shipowners are prepared to admit, and to frankly admit that there are evils to some extent attending these advance notes, but, Sir, there are, I am sorry to say it, many evils in this world which we see and deplore, but which we are compelled to submit to—evils which legislation cannot put an end to—the advance note is one of them. I could name many others, and far more serious ones, but this is not necessary for my purpose. What I have to show the Committee is that advance notes are necessary. I will endeavour to illustrate this. Does the hon. Member know there are hundreds of what are called distressed British seamen landed every year in this country. I dare say he does not really know what the term means. Well, I will inform him and those hon. Members who are not necessarily so conversant with sailors as I am, or perhaps I should say as I ought to be after my long experience. A distressed seaman is a man that perhaps from accident, folly, or disease, is rendered incapable of performing his duty on board. He is landed at a foreign port—his wages are paid up—his clothes are delivered—he is sent to the hospital. His ship sails before he is convalescent. Perhaps even then for at least some time he is unfit for any arduous duty. He applies to the authorities as a sailor in distress, and the Government or Consul(as the case may be) orders him to be taken home in any ship that may be in port as a passenger at Government expense. The ship may be three to five months coming home. During that period he is receiving no wages. As soon as the vessel arrives in dock he is landed—from that minute the remuneration to the ship for his food ceases. What is to become of him until he can get a ship? As the matter now stands, the man goes to the Sailors' Home or to his lodging-house keeper, who lodge, feed, and in most cases clothe him, knowing that at the end of a week or 10 days he will get a ship and receive the usual advance note—out of the proceeds Jack recoups his landlord, and perhaps receives a few shillings balance. I am sorry to say in many cases they make an improper use of this balance. This is the evil, but what would the evil be if there was no advance note in prospect? Perhaps for the first night he would by pledging his clothes or his sea chest, get food and lodging; but what will he do in the morning? He cannot go to sea for the day, and ask for his wages in the evening, therefore he must, however reluctantly, and degrading though it may, and would be, to him, go to the workhouse or do worse. Well, what better is he when he comes out? He is still penniless, therefore he becomes a burden to the ratepayers. Has the hon. Member for Poole ever thought of this, and has he ever thought what it may lead to? Why, it leads to crime. In despair the man commits some offence, in order that he may be taken before the magistrates and sent to gaol, which in the eyes of a seaman is far preferable to the workhouse. Again, will the hon. Member for Poole be kind enough to inform the Committee if he is aware that sailors in this country are as liable to be laid on their backs by illness as other men? Is he aware there are, perhaps, thousands every year discharged from our hospitals convalescent, but unable to go to sea for a week or 10 days? Is he aware these men are generally penniless? If they are not to have advances, where will they go to? The lodging-house keepers or Sailors' Homes, under such circumstances, cannot be expected to lodge, feed, and clothe them; therefore the only door open for them is the workhouse or the prison. A sailor is different from all other men, as I have already observed. He cannot go to sea for a day or a week, and return on the Saturday night for his week's wages. Has the hon. Member ever considered these points? I cannot think he has, or I am sure he, with his well-known philanthropic opinions, would never attempt to injure his sailor friends, as he would do if the clause became embodied in any Act of Parliament. Now, Sir, I will try to point out to the Committee the benefit which is derived from these advance notes by our provident sailors—and there are thousands such—who have wives and families. The provident sailor is anxious to leave those he holds most dear to him in as good a position pecuniarily as he possibly can when he leaves them for a voyage. Well, Sir, he asks for and obtains an advance note. As a provident man, perhaps he is not in want of much outfit for the voyage; he has sufficient without cashing his advance note. Well, Sir, he hands this note over to his wife or representatives. Ten days after he sails this note is presented at the ship owner's office by the wife, or one of the children, it may be by some friend. The money is paid; the wife receives it. Perhaps she has been a little extrava- gant, if I may use the term, in placing in her husband's chest a few extra comforts, and has broken into her little store intended for the rent, &c. The proceeds of the advance note is her main stay. The landlord calls for his weekly rent; it is ready, and he receives his due. Or, perhaps, Sir, the husband goes to sea, leaving sickness in his family. It may be, perhaps, his wife is expecting an addition. The proceeds of the advance note is there. I may be told this is all true, but the allotment note which a prudent and good husband almost invariably leaves for the benefit of his wife and family provides for these calls. But this is not so; an allotment note does not come due until a month or two months after the husband has left his family. The rent is due weekly. Sickness in his family may appear the day after he has left. The expected addition cannot be deferred because the allotment note is not due. The proceeds of the advance note supplies the want—it is there—and if any of these events should occur before the 10 days have elapsed, the date of the advance note becoming due, why, Sir, the wife or child brings it to the office, states her case, and the note in every case I ever heard of is paid before it is due. The same remarks as to the value of the advance note apply equally to the provident single man; although he has not a wife and children, he may have an aged father and mother, to whose support in their declining years he contributes as a good and dutiful son should do. Perhaps he has sisters needing help; and although the hon. Member for Poole may think these are extreme cases, yet I tell him that they are of daily occurrence almost, for there is as much genuine kindness in our sailors as in any other class of men in this country. Jack may be foolish and improvident, but he is generous to a degree. Sir, these are some of the benefits derived from advance notes. Are they to be done away with by Act of Parliament? I trust not. Again, what do we find to be the system in regard to advance notes followed in Her Majesty's Navy? Why, Sir, they give, when required, two months' advance. True, they do not give a note in the same way we do; and why? Simply because they can do without this, and do so with safety in their own way—namely, by allowing Jack to have from the Government stores clothing to the extent of two months' pay beforehand, if he requires it; and when once on board his ship with his kit they can keep him there, insamuch as they have sentries at each gangway with fixed bayonets to prevent Jack going ashore again. Now, I need not remind hon. Members that we in the Merchant Navy have no such things as sentries pacing the deck to prevent Jack from going on shore—this would, no doubt, be considered far worse than the so-called arrest without warrant. If we had, we too could give advances in the same manner; but as we have not, to follow the plan of the Merchant Navy would not only lead, perhaps, to the loss of the kit, but to the man also. I hold in my hand letters from leading ship-owners of London, Liverpool, and Scotland, representing 500,000 tons of shipping, from underwriters at Lloyd's, all adverse to the abolition of advance notes. Has the hon. Member for Poole any idea what amount of money this tonnage represents?—from £6,000,000 to £8,000,000 sterling. And this is only a small portion of the shipping that will be affected if this clause is placed in the Bill. Does the hon. Member know that in 1865 or 1866 the shipowners and merchants of New York formed a combination to put an end to advance notes there, and does he know the result? If not, I will enlighten him. The sailors also combined to resist the merchants and shipowners in their endeavours, and after their docks got full of laden ships they could not get them to sea for want of men. The result was failure, and they were ignominiously beaten. Does the hon. Member for Poole want to fill our docks with laden ships in the same manner, and has he ever calculated the cost of the attempt? It would amount to hundreds of thousands. Is he prepared to pay the cost? These are all points that require very grave consideration. It may be asked, why should underwriters at Lloyd's object to the abolition of advance notes? For the best of all reasons—self-interest. If the British shipowner is prohibited from giving an advance to his sailors, they know a foreigner can and does do so; and the consequence will be that our best men will go in the foreign ships, and leave the English, ships which they insure to take what men they can get, hence their risk will be greater. They know that Jack will go where he gets the advance, to him it means little whether the ship is English or American, but to them it means much—hence the objection. Let me point out another difficulty. We have heard a great deal of late of training ships for our boys; but if the advance note is done away with, for what purpose are we training up our youths? Why, to man foreign ships. Foreigners, as I have already said, do and continue to give advance notes; therefore our boys, when they become men, will go into the ship where they can get advance notes. Is not this plain? We shall have all the expense and foreigners will have all the benefit. The more I consider this matter the more am I convinced a more suicidal course could not be entertained. But what is the opinion of the captain of the largest ship in the world—Captain Halpin, of the Great Eastern steamship—now, I believe, one of the assessors to the Admiralty Board? Captain Halpin says that the abolition of advance notes would place shipmasters in very great difficulties, if it would not entirely stop the engagement of crews; that it would be impossible to obtain a crew for a long voyage ship without making advances; that he had tried for years, under the most favourable circumstances, but without success, to induce men to do without advances; that he had offered 5s. above the current rate of wages, but that not a single man nor a petty officer would consent to an engagement without advance, but willingly received reduced pay with advance; and that for 10 years he had tried unsuccessfully in his own ship to induce men to do without advances. We have heard much of the Royal Commission on this point. I have an analytical index here; what do we find? Why, Sir, they only say they are an evil, as we admit, but more than two-thirds of these witnesses say they cannot be dispensed with. I may be told that a Petition has been presented to the President of the Board of Trade by the Liverpool Seamen's Protection Society, which society numbers 3,000 sailors, in favour of the abolition of these advance notes. Well, Sir, what is this wonderful document?— a document prepared by the treasurer, and I suppose signed by him as the representative of these 3,000 men. A copy of that document has been sent to me along with a letter from an official, in which the following statement is made:—

    "I have seen—,who I found had attended the meeting of the Protective Society, when their long Petition was agreed upon; and, at the most, he tells me, there were only 150 present, and of these many would be, I know, men who have not been to sea for many years, so that these 3,000 men were very indifferently represented, and this after advertising and beating up. It should be impressed upon Sir Charles that the Society consists mainly of New York steamer men, absent only at most six weeks at a time."
    Now, Sir, I say also these men do not require advance notes, perhaps; yet, many of them take them, notwithstanding. But because men who merely cross the Atlantic and back say they can do without advance notes during their four or six weeks' absence is no criterion for men who are absent from home 12 months. I have presented Petitions from real sailors in London and Liverpool, signed by thousands—not by their secretary or treasurer—but by themselves individually, many stating where they belong to, what was their last ship, and they pray they may not be ruined by taking from them the advance note. It maybe said—Why have we not seen more Petitions? Why, Sir, for this simple reason. Seamen were satisfied from what took place last Session that they were safe at all events with the Government. Now, I would like to ask the hon. Member for Poole if he has not received a protest against his clause from the man in all England who is perhaps best able to form an opinion on the subject—or perhaps I should say seen the letter, which I believe was addressed to his Friend the hon. Member for Liverpool, who sits on the same side as himself. I would also ask my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, if he did not receive a similar protest from the same party. These advance notes are largely discounted by the Sailors' Home authorities, and with very great benefit to the sailors. In the last yearly report of the committee of the Sailors' Home in Liverpool I find nearly 2,000 of these notes were cashed there; and be- fore the proceeds were paid over, care was taken to see the men had a sufficient kit for the voyage. But, Sir, with the permission of the Committee I would allude to a letter I have received from the superintendent of the Sailors' Home in Liverpool on this subject. I think if anything further is needed to prove what my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer say, that the abolition of the advance note would not only prove a most serious wrong to our sailors, but in all likelihood a most disastrous measure to the Mercantile Marine of this country, and to our sailing shipowners in particular, this letter will supply the want. I have also another letter from South Wales, written by a gentleman I never heard of until I received it, who has been at sea all his life, and therefore is also a practical man, and whose opinion I think the Committee will say is of some value. It is rather a formidable-looking document, but I think it speaks to the point. Again, the hon. Member for Poole says—"Why not give Jack the cash and not a piece of paper?" I venture to assert that if nothing else could show his ignorance of this subject, that this statement would do so; for I am sure that any man who knows anything of a sailor will say that this would be ten thousand times worse in the result than the advance note; for if the improvident sailor—and this proposal of the hon. Member is only applicable to such—received his advance of one or two months in cash, every farthing of it might go in folly or vice of some kind or other; whereas, if it is in paper, and which is only to be of value if he joins his ship, he must, in general, take the note to his lodging housekeeper, or the Sailors' Home to be discounted, with the proceeds he pays his debts, buys some clothing suitable for the voyage he is about to go, which is placed on board the ship as a guarantee that he is going the voyage, and the balance he receives in cash. This, as I have already said, is the evil; but, instead of all his advance being squandered if he received it in cash, when a note is given only a portion of it goes in folly, and this, too, but a very small portion. Now I ask, could there be any proposal more sure to defeat the purpose the hon. Member has in view than this? We have heard also of the exorbitant rates these lodging-house- keepers, or crimps, as they have been styled, charge for discounting these notes. I venture to say that, whatever their charges are, they are as nothing compared to the rates charged to many of our young men of the present day by the money-lenders of London, Oxford, and Cambridge. Let the hon. Member for Poole turn his attention to that evil, which is ten times greater than the one he charges these crimps—as he styles them—with, and he would do a great service not only to these young men, but to their parents or guardians also, and expose no one but these respectable money-lenders or crimps of the worst kind. A letter has been forwarded to me for my inspection from the superintendent of a Sailors' Home at one of our large coal outports. It was addressed to a friend of his and treats upon private matters generally, but in the postscript these significant words are added—
    "25th March, 1876.
    "We shall have to shut up our Home if advances in some shape or the other are not given. We shipped 22,000 men here last year in British ships, and I am quite certain 18,000 of these men could not have done without advance."
    In this port they have no import trade, consequently men are all ordered to that port from other places. These are facts, and I think they speak with no uncertain sound. Now, Sir, I think I have shown to the Committee that we cannot do without advance notes, especially in our sailing ships. The shipowner would be a gainer if we could. Thus, say, a shipowner has 20 ships—I have between 30 and 40, I do not know the exact number—in each of these ships he, perhaps, has advanced to the crew £100—equal to £2,000—which at 5 per cent would be in interest alone for the 12 months' voyage £100. Now, if there was no advance notes the owner of these ships would gain in interest alone £100 per annum; no mean sum in these bad times for shipowners. I might object to this clause on the ground of right of contract between man and man, but I trust the Committee will say it is unnecessary, and that I have already said sufficient to convince hon. Members that, however objectionable advance notes may be in the hands of some of our sailors, that it is impossible they can, as a body, do without them, until something is found as a substitute.

    asked the Chairman whether the clause now proposed was within the scope of a Bill which dealt exclusively with the safety of life at sea and kindred subjects; whereas the system of advance notes was a matter of contract between owner and seamen?

    said, the hon. and learned Member had accurately stated the objects of the Bill; but a measure similar in its character to this was introduced last year, and included a proposal respecting advance notes, which was held—and, he thought, rightly held—to be embraced among the objects of the Bill. The present Bill had no Preamble. Its scope could, therefore, only be gathered from its general provisions; and it was described in one of the early clauses as a Bill which might be construed as one with the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, and the Acts amending the same. He could not, therefore, say that the clause now proposed was out of Order.

    said, he had ascertained that there had recently been a great strike of sailors in New York against the advance note system. The House would recollect the operation of the "truck system" in this country, and the evils which it produced. But it was done away with, and its abolition had the effect in the mining districts of rendering the working classes more independent and more moral. The hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates) read a letter, which he cited as an authority, but he did not give the name of the writer.

    However that might be, he might remind the House that a provision of this kind was in the Government Bill last year, and he hoped the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) would adhere to his Amendment; and that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade would go into the Lobby with them now in support of the Amendment. He had numerous letters representing that the advance note system was a great evil and that it ought to be done away with and that was the opinion of sailors' wives.

    said, a very large number of shipowners had come to the conclusion last year that it was absolutely impossible to do away with the advance note. He had made inquiries on the subject, and he was convinced that was the general feeling among owners of ships. But, at the same time, he knew that there was a strong feeling in the House that if these advance notes were made legal—which they were not now—and the sailor could enforce payment direct from the owner, instead of being obliged to go to the crimps to get them cashed, the advances would be much less objectionable. He thought that if a note was given payable seven days after the ship had left, it would be an improvement; but his own experience led him to the conclusion that they ought not to interfere with the freedom of contract in this case any more than in others. He believed that the Committee would commit a material mistake if they passed this clause, which would certainly not be of advantage to the seaman.

    stated that a Central Committee of Shipowners of England had been sitting in London for many weeks, representing all the ports of the United Kingdom, and they had passed a resolution to the effect that their Parliamentary Committee be authorized to state that they would make no opposition to the abolition of advance notes. He added that he was a Member of the Commission which had condemned those notes, being thoroughly convinced that they had a demoralizing tendency. He was still of that opinion, and he further believed them to be a premium on desertion. He could not vote for the retention of a system which he firmly believed was demoralizing.

    said, he hoped they might be able to come to a compromise on this matter. He suggested that the advance note should be given for one month, instead of seven days, or any less time. The sailor would be able to get the note cashed and his immediate wants supplied, though the note would not be paid until he had served a month on board, and thus earned his wages. The danger of desertion would thus be avoided. That was a generalimpression among all the shipowners with whom he had had communication on the subject, and if the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) would introduce words into his clause with that object, he should be glad to give it his support.

    said, the case of the New York shipowners was strong against the system of advance notes. They felt the evil so strongly that they preferred to keep their ships in port for 10 days rather than give their men those notes until their combination was broken down by the combination of the crimps. The Amendment as it stood would not work; but he was inclined to try the experiment of doing away with advance notes in England, though it would be detrimental to British shipping if advance notes were not allowed for British ships in places where the law allowed them for other ships. He thought the best course was to follow the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

    said, he had ascertained by inquiry at the Sailors' Homes that some of the largest amount of advance notes given in Liverpool were given by houses with whom the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rat bone) was connected.

    said, he hoped his hon. Friend would press his clause to a division. Why was the seaman so different from other men, from the men in Her Majesty's Navy for instance? The whole system in the Navy from 1854 to 1872 had been to limit the advance (not the advance note) system, and to increase the allotment system as far as possible. What did Mr. Lindsay, as high an authority as any that had been referred to, say on this subject in his valuable work? He said—

    "From my own experience, I have no hesitation in stating that the system of advance notes tends to lower the character of the seaman, promotes intemperance and insubordination, and has been the indirect means of far more disasters at sea than either overloading or unseaworthy vessels."

    as a practical man, opposed the clause of the hon. Member for Poole. He thought that it was clear that an advance of some kind was necessary; and it surely ought not to be made without the shipowner having some security for his advance. If allotment notes were substituted they would be discounted as well as advance notes.

    observed that the Bill was intended for the protection of the lives of our sailors, but the proposal of the hon. Member for Poole imported into it a matter foreign to its object. The great danger which they ran in these days was that, through the action of a mistaken philanthropy and a spurious liberalism, the liberties of freeborn Englishmen would be gradually frittered away. He regretted that he should be obliged to vote against the clause.

    in reply, expressed his willingness to limit the application of his clause to Great Britain. He would remind his noble Friend, the apostle of freedom of contract, that the seaman in the matter of his wages was in different ways now bound down by the law, and that the system which he sought to abolish by that clause fettered both sailor and shipowner and was opposed to freedom of contract. The speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates) that night was the same in fact which he delivered last year, when the question before the House was the forbidding of all advances; but as that was no this proposal it came 12 months too late. Of course, some inconveniences might result from the change which he proposed; but they would be all got over in a few months, and the permanent advantages which would follow from it would far outweigh any of its temporary disadvantages. He must, therefore, go to a division.

    said, that that question had been very deeply considered by the Government in consequence of what occurred last year, and naturally also, of course, on account of its merits, and certainly the opinion at which they had arrived was that that proposal was not within the scope of the Bill. It was not part of that question with which it was their pretension to deal; and he did not think that was a happy opportunity for treating it, although no doubt it was worthy of the consideration of Parliament. With regard to the suggestion for limiting the clause to this country, as far as he could form an opinion at that moment, he thought that might lead to great inconvenience. Instead of remedying the evils which all acknowledged, it might even aggravate some of them and produce injurious consequences. On the whole, then, it would not be the wisest course to include the clause of the hon. Member for Poole in the present Bill; but in that measure they should adhere to its avowed object, which was one that they all wished to see carried out.

    Question put.

    The Committee divided:—Ayes 143; Noes 202: Majority 59.

    moved, in page 13, to leave out Clause 25, and insert the following clause:—

    (Conditions of contract of service between seamen and masters of ships.)
    "Every contract of service, express or implied, between a seaman and the master or owner of a ship shall imply, notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary, an obligation on the part of the seaman that he is, at the commencement of the voyage, competent and physically fit to perform the duties of the rating for which he contracts to serve, and that he will use all reasonable means to insure his fitness and competency during the voyage; and any breach of such warranty shall operate to the forfeiture of his wages during the time he is so rendered incapable of performing such duties."

    said, that this was drawing a corollary to the 4th clause, and was fanciful, and inapplicable. The owners warranty of seaworthiness to the seaman, and the seaman's warranty of his own healthiness to the owner, were not parallel terms. The proposal also was too stringent, as it called upon the seaman to guarantee not only that he was in good health at the time of the engagement, but also that he would keep so during the voyage or forfeit his wages. He might lose his health from the shipowner's own default.

    said, if the clause were rejected the Bill would be a most one-sided one, for, while penalties and restrictions were heaped upon the shipowner, nothing was done to insure the seaworthiness of the seaman.

    Clause negatived.

    moved that the Chairman report Progress, because the next clause—the power of arrest without a warrant—would give rise to a long discussion.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—( Mr. Morgan Lloyd.)

    The Voices were taken, and Mr. Phipps, Member for Northampton, was appointed one of the Tellers for the Noes; but no Member appearing to be a second Teller for the Noes, the Chairman declared the Ayes had it.

    Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

    House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.