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Commons Chamber

Volume 229: debated on Monday 8 May 1876

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House Of Commons

Monday, 8th May, 1876.

Metropolis Gas Act, 1860—Gas Companies' Accounts—Question

asked the President of the Board of Trade, When the accounts of the Metropolitan Gas Companies will be presented?

When the Gas Companies' accounts have been received, they shall at once be presented. The Metropolis Gas Act, 1860, does not require those companies that are still under its provision to send in their accounts until two months after their general meeting. It is not probable, therefore, that all these accounts will be received at the Board of Trade till the middle of June.

Metropolis Improvements—Northumberland Avenue

Question

asked the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, If any building lots are yet sold on Northumberland Avenue, and if it is, for any other reason, too late to make a slight change in the line of the street so that it may open to Trafalgar Square on the line of the Nelson Monument; and if he has no objection to postpone the sale of building lots and endeavour to carry out the improvement indicated?

in reply, said, that the building lots in question were not yet sold, but the tenders were prepared, approved, and ordered to be issued. There was a great deal of misapprehension in the public mind in respect to Northumberland Avenue. In 1873, the date of the Charing Cross Act, the Bill brought in by the Metropolitan Board of Works put the Nelson Monument opposite the centre of the street. That Bill went before a Select Committee, and evidence was given by several eminent engineers and architects, including Sir J. Bazalgette, Mr. Hardwicke, Mr. Wyatt, Mr. Barry, and others, recommending an alteration of the street from the line recommended by the Metropolitan Board of Works to that which had since been adopted, and the alteration, which was approved by Parliament, rendered it necessary that the Board should bring in another Bill in 1875, called the Additional Powers Bill. That Bill dealt with the taking away of property which had cost the metropolis an additional £25,000 for the purpose of meeting the views of Parliament, and that large sum of money having been spent, he did not think it would be right now to delay the sale of the building lots or the carrying out of the improvement. He might add that those who gave evidence in favour of the scheme considered that the manner in which it had been carried out was most for the public advantage. With respect to another Question on the Paper by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. T. Hankey), he had to say that a model plan upon a considerable scale had been prepared, and left in the Library of the House for inspection. Parliament had now disposed of the whole matter, and the street had been completed and handed over to the Vestry of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and for these reasons he was afraid that he could not adopt the suggestions of the hon. Member.

Elementary Education Act—London School Board—Question

asked the Vice President of the Council, If he could state what is the cause of delay in presenting the Return ordered from the School Board for London so long ago as March 16th, and when the Return will be in the hands of Members?

I forwarded the Question of my noble Friend to the School Board, and I am informed, in reply, that the Return has required a great deal of labour, it having been necessary to get special returns from the divisional committees respecting the enforcement of the bye-laws. The answer also states that they regret that it will require two or three weeks more before the Return will be in a condition to be passed by the statistical committee of the Board, so that it cannot be sent to us before the first week in June.

Criminal Law—Expense Of Executions—Question

asked the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury have declined to pay the expenses incurred by the burgh of Dumbarton in the execution, on the 19th of October last, of the convict David Ward law; and whether they did so on the ground that the expenses attendant on the execution of criminals within the limits of any Royal Burgh in Scotland must be defrayed by the burgh itself, and are not chargeable on the public funds; and, if so, whether, in thus deciding, they were guided by the legal advice of the Lord Advocate; and, whether this is in accordance with the practice which has been hitherto followed in England, Scotland, and Ireland in similar cases?

in reply, said, the Treasury had declined to pay the expenses incurred by the borough of Dumbarton in the case referred to, the practice being that burghs in Scotland pay the expenses of the execution of criminals within their jurisdiction. In England the sum of £10 was allowed to a sheriff charged with the duty of the execution of a convict, and he presumed that charge was allowed, inasmuch as if the sheriff could not get any person to carry out the execution he should do so himself.

Criminal Law—The Convict Standridge—Question

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether his attention has been called to statements in several papers attributing undue severity to Mr. Justice Denman in the case of Mr. Standridge, a schoolmaster, near Exeter; and, whether there are any grounds for the imputation?

in reply, said, his attention had been called to the paragraphs in question, in which it was stated that protests had been made by Teachers' Associations in the county against the severity of the sentence passed upon the convict Standridge, that at length Mr. Justice Denman had written to him recommending a mitigation of the sentence, and that it was then discovered that the man had become insane in consequence of the sentence passed upon him. These statements were inaccurate in almost every particular. The facts were that the prisoner pleaded guilty to a most atrocious crime, for which, under ordinary circumstances, very severe punishment ought to be given. No facts transpired at the trial, nor was anything urged by himself or by any one on his behalf which could justify any mitigation of the sentence. But the learned Judge, from certain expressions in the depositions and from his own observation of the conduct of the prisoner, suspected that he was not altogether sane. He (the learned Judge) accordingly made inquiries on this subject, voluntarily, without any remonstrance or suggestion from any other source. The result result was to confirm Mr. Justice Denman's doubts whether the man was responsible for his acts, and the learned Judge immediately reported this doubt to him (Mr. Cross) and suggested further inquiry. He (Mr. Cross) had in consequence directed an inquiry by two medical officers and from their report there could be no doubt that the prisoner was insane now and was insane at the time he committed the act. He was accordingly removed at once to a lunatic asylum; but it was certainly putting the cart before the horse to say that the severity of the sentence had driven the man insane, for he was insane before he committed the crime, and the discovery of that fact was entirely due to the learned Judge.

Merchant Shipping Bill—Bill 49

(Sir Charles Adderley, Mr. Edward Stanhope.)

COMMITTEE. [ Progress 4 th May.]

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

appealed to the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen) to withdraw his clauses on "arrest without warrant" and on "official logs," on the ground that these subjects did not come within the scope of the present Bill.

said, in answer to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, he would withdraw the clauses for the present. He would admit the force of the objection that the Bill did not really deal with the question of discipline; but he should reserve to himself the power to consider whether at a future stage he should not propose them again. New Clauses (Restriction on power of arrest without warrant) and (Official logs), by leave, withdrawn.

in moving the insertion of new Clause after Clause 27:—

(Registered British ships if disclassed to be deemed unseaworthy until surveyed by Board of Trade.)
said, that he had carefully considered the objections that had been urged against a clause which he had previously proposed upon the subject, and he believed that by the clause which he now proposed it would be possible to reach unseaworthy ships without the clause being open to the objections which had been previously raised. The clause, no doubt, would not reach ships which had never been classed at all, yet it would reach most of the vessels which would have been reached by the fuller treatment which he had previously suggested. As the Bill would not come into operation until the 1st October, there would be ample time for vessels to be re-classed, and the Board of Trade would only have to deal with the residuum. New Clause (Registered British ships if disclassed to be deemed unseaworthy until surveyed by Board of Trade,)—(Mr. Plimsoll,)—brought up, and read the first time.

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

thought that the clause would be very serviceable, though he believed that some alterations in its wording would be found necessary. He questioned the wisdom of putting upon the Board of Trade the responsibility of ordering the repair of ships, because that would fix the Department with the duty of fixing the extent of the repairs to be effected.

considered the mere registration of ships which had run off their class would not be effective. There were thousands of ships now unclassed which were as safe both for passengers and goods as those which were classed highest. Indeed, it was in connection with the latter that the greatest loss of life and property occurred during the last two years. He objected to the Board of Trade survey on the ground that the surveyor, being unacquainted with any other than first-class ships, might expect too much in the case of ships of an inferior rating. He was of opinion that before they passed a clause of this sort it would be desirable to see whether the legislation that they had already passed would not be effective for the purpose. He admitted that the present clause was not open to some of the objection surged against the first proposal of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll), but he could not help thinking that it would press very hard upon a very large trade. A ship might not be perfectly sound, yet it might be quite fit to carry timber across the Atlantic, and it would be a hardship if these vessels were required to be surveyed and classed.

supported the clause, on the ground that while it would not press very heavily upon shipowners, it would tend to the security of the lives of passengers and of sailors at sea. He hoped that the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) would persist in his endeavour to pass the clause, though he agreed that it would require some alteration to make it work. The fact of a certificate having been withdrawn was primâ facie evidence that there was something wrong, though it was not sufficient to warrant the giving of a character of that kind to the ship at once.

speaking as the chairman of one of the largest marine insurance companies in England, had never heard any objection raised among shipowners against the principle of this clause. He saw no reason why the Government should not undertake the survey of these unclassed ships, which ought either to be broken up or repaired. He agreed, however, that the clause, as it stood, might be regarded as a reflection upon all unclassed ships; though this would be met by providing that all such ships should be surveyed.

strongly objected to the clause. It was really, though under a thin disguise, the clause which they had already decided upon, and it was based on a misconception of the object of Lloyd's register. The object of the Bill was to protect life at sea, whilst the register at Lloyd's was to class vessels for carrying cargo of specific kinds. A vessel might not be fit to bring home in perfect condition tea or silk from China which might yet be perfectly safe at sea; and it was very possible for a vessel to relinquish her class at Lloyds' without being at all unseaworthy. There were thousands of vessels which were quite safe to carry human beings, although they were unclassed. The object of the clause was an insidious one—to get the House of Commons to recognize Lloyd's and the Liverpool Register as standards of efficiency, and thereby place the whole Mercantile Marine virtually under their control. There would be danger in putting trust in Lloyd's or other survey, as it would absolve owners from responsibility. The Lady Macdonald went on shore from a defect in her ground tackle; but the captain had to be absolved from all blame, because he had a certificate from Lloyd's that the vessel was in perfect order. If there was to be a survey, it should be carried on by the Government and not by a body like Lloyd's. The clause was, to his mind, insidious, dangerous, and unsatisfactory, and he trusted that the Government would refuse to adopt it.

said, the clause involved the principle that had been under consideration for five long years, and the House had over and over again deliberately accepted the alternative principle that responsibility should rest on the ship owner. Disclassed ships would apply to all unclassed ships. Now what the hon. Member for Derby wanted was to get at that dangerous class of ships of which nothing was known. It would cause a compulsory survey, and that would have to be followed by a certificate of some kind. And a man having shown that he had spent £500 in the repair of his ship a short time before would not, in the case of his ship having taken the ground and strained, and being sent to sea unrepaired, within the time for which she was classed, be convicted of an offence under this Act. If in the interests of safety they were to have a Government survey they would come back into the old circle out of which they did not appear to be able to emerge. He was not prepared to say that they had gone on the best principle, but they should give it a fair trial, and if it broke down, they must perforce fall back upon up on the principle they had rejected. He would rather they should adopt the survey of Lloyd's or the Liverpool Register than increase the powers of the Board of Trade. He wanted to see how they would do the work which had already been put on them.

said, that the vessels which would be affected by this clause were such as had been on the register, but were there no longer. Was it undesirable to point out to the Board of Trade that if those vessels could no longer be classed by insurance companies, the Board of Trade ought, for the safety of the lives of the people, to see what condition those ships were in before they left port? He was in favour of the principle of the clause of the hon. Member for Derby, which he thought fitted in with Clause 5 of the Bill. It would be most unwise not to take advantage for the purposes of that Bill of societies like Lloyd's Committee, even although they were not primarily established for saving of life. There was a large class of ships against which there was a primâ facie ground of suspicion, because having gone to those register societies for a character, they found they could not get one. All that the Board of Trade was asked to do was to see that those vessels did not leave port without a survey.

said, that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was conclusive against the principle of the clause, for a ship being classed was no doubt an indication of safety, but it was by no means a proof of it. When a ship was not disclassed, but expunged from the list of any registry within the term for which the ship was surveyed and classed, it was primâ facie evidence of unsafety, and in such a case the Board of Trade having received information from Lloyd's or elsewhere would proceed to have it inspected and reported upon. If the clause were carried, the Board of Trade would have to keep itself in constant communication with every shipping association in the country, and upon all disclassed ships there would have to be a Board of Trade survey, possibly without any reason or use, for it was most unreasonable to hold that a disclassed ship was necessarily unsafe. That would reverse the existing practice of suspicion first and inspection afterwards, and would be the first step towards substituting a Government survey for individual responsibility—a principle against which the House had so often decided. The hon. Member for Derby proposed that if a ship was for any reason disclassed that fact should be taken as conclusive proof that her character for seaworthiness or insurance was gone; but it was not true either that being classed was a proof of safeness, or that being disclassed was a proof of unsafe ness. In a return of the ships detained by the Board of Trade for defects not only in the machinery, but also in the hull, among them were many that were classed "A 1" at Lloyd's. The classification at Lloyd's was not made with general regard to safety, but with regard to fitness for particular kinds of cargo on particular voyages; and after vessels had run out the period for which they had been classed, many poor shipowners bought them, for purposes for which they were perfectly safe—for example, as coasters; and those persons ought not to be compelled to class them again. The hon. Member called upon the Board of Trade to re-survey ships which had been expunged from the register of any society; but how was the Board of Trade to get into communication with all societies? Ships might cease to be classed, to avoid the penalty of disclassing. He did not see in what way the shipowners would be compelled to carry out this clause. The hon. Member said it was the duty of the Board of Trade to repair all these ships, but who was to pay for their repair? Ships might be intentionally disclassed to get Government repair and certificate. The clause was very imperfectly drawn, and he trusted that it would not receive the assent of the House.

said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had raised difficulties which really had no existence. So far as the clause was concerned, it simply provided that if a ship had no character, the Board of Trade was to assume that it was not in a satisfactory condition—that it required a certain amount of supervision—and consequently the Board would require a survey to be made of the vessel. He understood that the object of the Bill was to secure the protection and safety of life. He reminded the Committee that the rate of insurance was a rate which marked distinctly the risk to human life which attached to the ship herself. As soon as a vessel was in such a position that it could not be insured at a low rate, they might rely upon it that the vessel had become more or less unsafe. He was able to tell the Committee a fact of very great importance. He had a statement before him which gave the experience of certain insurance companies in relation to second-class vessels. It professed to give actual experience of insuring ships for 25 years, and it showed that the loss of properly registered ships was only 4¾ per cent, while, in the case of a large number of disclassed vessels the actual loss during 25 or 30 years had amounted to from 20 to 25 per cent. The proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) was simply a plan by which, as far as possible, these vessels of which from 20 to 25 per cent had been lost, should be prevented from sailing in future. That, in point of fact, was the issue before the House. They were told that the Government could not rely upon the reports supplied to them from a private source. Was that the case in regard to the College of Surgeons? That was not a Government Department, and yet a certificate was accepted from that body, that a gentleman was fit to exercise the medical profession. His fear in regard to the present Bill and the policy of the Government was, that there would be a large number of permanent officials called into existence in connection with the Board of Trade, and he had a strong impression that the Government would harass the shipowners and inaugurate a policy which, instead of tending to the safety of human life, would have an exactly opposite effect. He hoped the Committee would support the proposal of his hon. Friend.

said, he was glad to find the Government were going to resist the adoption of this clause. He thought the House ought to understand that classification did not always mean seaworthiness. Many of the vessels that were classed at Lloyd's were not so good as others that were unclassed, and could be insured on as easy terms. The fact was, that the seaworthiness of vessels depended more upon the builders than upon any classification by the London Lloyd's or Liverpool Lloyd's. He hoped that the Committee would reject the clause, the result of which would be to drive first-class shipowners from classing their ships at all.

objected to the clause, because it made the disclassing of a ship primâ facie evidence against a vessel's character. The fact of a vessel's falling from one class to another, or falling out of class altogether, would not justify the belief that a ship was unfit to go to sea. It appeared from the evidence taken before the Royal Commission that when a vessel was classed at Lloyd's as of a high class, it was the practice to have what was called a half-time survey, which enabled the vessel after half the period of her classification had expired to renew and continue the period of her classification. It was a very severe survey, and shipowners objected to it; and perfectly good ships would under this clause lose their character because they had lost their class. It was also stated before the Royal Commission that there might be cases at Lloyd's where a black mark was put against a ship without her being defective, the black mark being put against her simply because she had not complied with the necessary survey. What would be the effect of such a proceeding? The question was one as between the shipowner and the society in which he registered his ship, and not one as to the fitness of the vessel to preserve human life. It would be primâ facie evidence against the character of the ship, although she might be perfectly seaworthy. But he took a wider objection to the clause. He objected to the transmutation of voluntary systems, created for purposes of commercial convenience, into instruments of Government interference. The principle on which they had been proceeding was that of trying to remedy evils without indulging in the Utopian hope that they could altogether prevent them. The clause contemplated the case of any British ship classed at any time in the registry of any society. There was nothing in the clause to limit it to registered societies. Under it any voluntary society might take upon itself to survey and classify ships—it might be a bogus society. He regarded the clause as a mischievous one. It ran counter to the deliberate policy which had been pursued for some years past, and he was glad the Government had opposed it.

said, if the clause established the compulsory survey of all vessels he would support it; otherwise he should vote against it. The Committee should hesitate before mixing up the Government with those societies, and putting the shipowners into a position of antagonism with them. He hoped the clause would not be carried, because he believed it would make shipowners unwilling to class their vessels at Lloyd's at all.

supported the clause, because he believed it would have the effect of lessening the improper powers given to the Board of Trade under Clause 5, the effect of which could not, he said, be other than to place every vessel more or less under suspicion, unless surveyed by the Board of Trade. The principle of compulsory classification on whatever principle was not so bad as compulsory survey on the complaint of the crew.

said, the fact of a vessel losing her class would be a fair ground on which to allege unseaworthiness and to insist on her being surveyed. It was quite a different thing, however, to make it incumbent on the Government to watch all the circumstances connected with every vessel, and it seemed to him that the clause would impose a statutable obligation on the Government which it would be impossible for them to perform: how would it be possible that a ship which had been absent three or four years should come within their knowledge? He did not believe that the object of the hon. Member for Derby would be attained by the means he proposed, and advised the hon. Member to withdraw the clause.

maintained that vessels of no class were more likely to be unsafe than the others, and that Lloyd's possessed the confidence of all but a very small number of the shipowners of this country. He contended that he had shown sufficient and substantial grounds for the adoption of the clause. The Government Bill on this point did not even touch the fringe of the question, and he should certainly take the sense of the Committee upon the subject. The President of the Board of Trade had argued that the disclassing of a ship was not primâ facie evidence of unseaworthiness; but it was remarkable that of all the long list of vessels destroyed by the Board of Trade not one was a classed ship. He knew he should be defeated on a division, but the fact that the Government had refused the clause was an intimation of their determination to the people of this country that they would not move hand or foot to prevent unseaworthy vessels going to sea.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 235: Majority 119.

moved the insertion of the following new clause:—

(Passenger certificate by Board of Trade to render a second survey under Passenger Acts unnecessary.)
"In every ease where a passenger certificate has been granted to any steamer by the Board of Trade under the provisions of 'The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854,' and remains still in force it shall not be requisite for the purposes of the employment of such steamer under the Pas- sengers Acts, that she shall be again surveyed in her hull and machinery in order to qualify her for service under the Passengers Acts 1855, and the Acts amending the same; but for the purposes of employment under those Acts such Board of Trade certificate shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements of the Passenger Acts with respect to such survey, and any further survey of the hull and machinery shall be dispensed with, and so long as a steamship is an emigrant ship, that is a passenger ship within the meaning of the Passengers Act 1855, and the Acts amending the same, and the provisions contained in the said Passengers Acts as to the survey of her hull, machinery, and equipments have been complied with, she shall not be subject to the provisions of 'The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854,' with respect to the survey and certificate for passenger steamers, or to the enactments amending the same."
New Clause (Passenger certificate by Board of Trade to render a second survey under Passenger Acts unnecessary,)—(Mr. Thomas Eustace Smith,)—brought up, and read a first time.

On Question, "That the Clause be read a second time?"

said, he was prepared to accept the clause, on the ground that it would do away with a needless duplication of survey in some cases at present existing.

hoped the adoption of the proposed clause would not exempt passenger ships from periodic survey.

said, that, as a fact, passenger ships so certified were surveyed yearly.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.

in moving the insertion of a new clause, enabling British ships to render assistance in the way of salvage or towage to vessels in distress, without being responsible for possible injury inflicted upon the distressed vessels in the attempts to assist them; and which clause also laid down rules as to the mode in which claims for towage or salvage should be assessed, and, if necessary, recovered, said, the task of assisting vessels in distress was often one of great difficulty, and in the present state of the law the assisting ship was liable to make good any injury it might inflict in the course of its efforts to save property or life. This was an anomaly that ought to be remedied.

opposed the clause, on the ground that it would in one part be a mere recitation of the existing law, and in another a dangerous extension of the law, entirely without the scope of the Bill.

Clause negatived.

moved the insertion of a new clause, relating to danger and distress signals at night, which required all British ships to carry two or more distress signal-lights, which should be self-igniting in water and inextinguishable by wind and water, and showing an intensely brilliant light for at least 30 minutes, and visible for six nautical miles; and also requiring such ships to carry three or more life-buoy rescue lights.

conceived that the proposal was quite within the existing law so far as passenger and emigrant ships were concerned. To pass an Act of Parliament to this effect would be going further than Parliament could enforce, because it would be impossible for the Board of Trade to see that such a law was carried out in all ships; but he would bring up on the Report a modification of the clause restricting it to passenger and emigrant ships and such ships as came within the survey of the Board of Trade, if that would satisfy the hon. Member.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

proposed the insertion of a new clause, providing that—

"It shall be lawful for the Board of Trade, with a view to the prompt and uniform adjudication upon cases arising under the Discipline Clauses of the Merchant Shipping Acts, or upon other cases arising under or connected with merchant shipping, in respect of which the local magistrates exercise a summary jurisdiction, to require the appointment at any harbour or 'port of call' in the United Kingdom of a magistrate, who shall have been either a barrister or solicitor of at least seven years' standing, and whose constant residence shall be in close proximity to such harbour or port of call, and whose services shall be always available for hearing and determining all such cases as aforesaid; such magistrate to be appointed in England and Ireland by the Lord Chancellor of each country for the time being in which such appointments shall be deemed requisite, at a salary not exceeding five hundred pounds per annum, and to be paid and payable out of the Consolidated Fund to such magistrate, or by moneys provided by Act of Parliament for that purpose."

pointed out that the latter part of the clause could not be put, as it involved the expenditure of public money.

said, he would withdraw that part of the clause. His proposal was really made in the interest of all parties connected with the Mercantile Marine. Cases of very great magnitude often occurred at the large ports in Ireland and England, and those cases were disposed of by the local magistrates. There were great powers given by the existing law, and those powers would be increased by this Bill. He was sorry to say that, to his knowledge, magistrates who were personally connected with the shipping interest pursued such a course of conduct as tended very much to throw discredit on the administration of justice. His clause would give the Board of Trade power, if they were satisfied that it was necessary in any part of England or Ireland, to appoint a paid resident magistrate, who should adjudicate in all shipping cases coming within the province of the Act of Parliament, so that such cases should not be allowed to come before magistrates who were personally connected with the Mercantile Marine. He understood there was some objection to making such appointments as he proposed in England; and if that were so, he was quite willing to limit the operation of the clause to Ireland. He was told that it would be also objectionable to leave the appointment of magistrates to the discretion of the Board of Trade, and he would, therefore, be prepared, if the substance of the clause were agreed to, to leave the appointment entirely with the Lord Chancellor.

thought it would be an unusual process for the Board of Trade to require the appointment of a stipendiary magistrate in every or any port in the Kingdom at its discretion.

supported the principle of the clause, but did not approve of the words in which it was couched. In Queenstown, for instance, which was a port of call, a great many cases arose, and at that place he knew there were various circumstances which rendered it desirable for a stipendiary magistrate to be appointed.

thought this was a subject which should be pressed on the attention of the Government. To show the magnitude of the interests involved, he might mention that in the course of the last 10 years the tonnage of the shipping arriving at Queenstown Harbour had risen from 580,000 tons to 2,600,000 tons. The necessity of some more permanent method of administering justice to the mercantile interests in such a port than that supplied by the local justices sitting in petty sessions, and often personally connected with shipping, was obvious.

observed that continual complaints were made of the increase of expenditure, and yet clauses were continually proposed tending to such an increase. The clause now proposed would, if agreed to, lead to the creation of an indefinite number of places. He was not at all sure that the object which was sought would be attained by the appointment of stipendiary magistrates. As this was a clause dealing with a professional matter, he might be expected to support it, but he did not intend to do so.

admitted there might be a few ports, such as Queenstown, where the appointment of a magistrate to deal specially with Admiralty cases might be desirable. About 18 months ago strong representations were made to the Irish Government as to the necessity of such a magistrate being appointed for Queenstown. He thereupon took some trouble to find a gentleman who would be thoroughly qualified for an appointment of the kind. He asked the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Lieutenant if they could recommend him some barrister with a special knowledge of maritime law, but he found that no gentleman possessing the necessary requirements was willing to accept such a comparatively small appointment. He had at last, however, found a gentleman who had been for 21 years a resident magistrate, and had had considerable experience in Admiralty cases at Cork. That gentleman had been sent some few months ago to act as stipendiary at Queenstown, and he had reason to believe that his administration there had so far given entire satisfaction. At all events, he had heard no com- plaints. If similar appointments should be proved to be necessary at other ports, the Government would take action accordingly.

said, that after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman he would withdraw his clause; but he could assure the House it had not been brought forward in order to create places for anybody. He had proposed it simply in the interests of his constituents, and at their request.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

moved the insertion of a new clause, providing that any seaman who deserted his ship, who refused without reasonable cause to join it, or who should be absent without leave, and without sufficient reason, should be liable on summary conviction to any period not exceeding six weeks' imprisonment, with or without hard labour; and also to forfeit his effects on board and also his wages; and, further, to satisfy any excess of wages paid to any substitute in his place. In case any of the offences did not amount to desertion, then there was to be merely a money penalty. He maintained that it was unnecessary to give very strong powers of imprisonment against seamen in order to secure the safety of life and the safety of the ship at sea. The existing Merchant Shipping Act, by Section 239, treated misconduct which endangered either the ship, or life, or limb as misdemeanour. That dealt in a complete manner with all breach or neglect of duty endangering life or the ship; and the present clause would only apply to such neglect of duty as did endanger the ship, or the lives of those on it. Another argument which he warned them against was the saying that it was impossible for the trade of the country to be carried on unless the present peculiar tyrannical laws were continued; but the very same argument was used when the Employers' and Workmen's Act was under discussion in that House, and he saw no reason why sailors should be punished criminally for simple breach of contract any more than other working men. He did not wish to repeal any ancient law, but only to deal with modern enactments. Before 1835 a sailor could only be imprisoned for 30 days for desertion, but in that year the period was lengthened to three months; and a mere absence from duty entailed a punishment of 10 weeks' imprisonment. The power to arrest without warrant, which he proposed to deal with by another clause, was not enacted till 1851, and he asked whether the character of our seamen had improved or deteriorated since that time. These severe laws applied not only to sea-going ships, but also to fishing smacks; and they, in Suffolk and Norfolk, where there were so many fishing smacks had a very demoralizing effect. He asked the Committee to consider whether such laws should be allowed to remain any longer upon the Statute Book.

admitted that the existing law required alteration, but was not prepared to say how far the Amendment met the necessities of the case. He suggested that the Government should institute an investigation to see what changes were wanted. He recommended that a small Committee should be appointed, not necessarily of shipowners, who should take evidence as to the coasting and timber trade, and who might report how much of the existing law was useless and unnecessary.

said, the new clauses must be considered at present, not on their own merits, but as connected with the Bill. He had made this a prominent part of the measure of last year, and had a strong view of the necessity of dealing with the existing law. The Government had, however, expressly excluded this great and important subject from the scope of the present measure, and there were two good reasons for this decision. The first was, that he received no great encouragement last year to proceed with the subject of the discipline of seamen, and second was, that there was good reason for limiting the scope of the present Bill if there was to be any hope of carrying it through this Session. As a good deal had been said about the alterations made in this Bill, he would assert that hardly any Bill had ever been passed with so little alteration upon which there had been so much discussion. The Government had almost carried the virgin text of the Bill without alteration. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but the new clauses which they probably had in their minds were not alterations, but only an extension of the application of an unaltered Bill. The text of the Bill had almost been carried intact, with the exception of slight verbal alterations, and it embodied the temporary legislation of last year and portions of the original Bill which had been dropped. The Government declined to accept clauses of the kind now proposed in the measure of last Session, and there was this additional reason for not accepting the clauses now, that the hon. and learned Gentleman had not made up his own mind on the subject. The clause would not meet the object his hon. and learned Friend stated that he had in view, as under it the law relating to seamen would not be assimilated to that which regarded workmen. On the contrary, it proposed a wide distinction, for the former were to be treated with civil remedies only; while it was proposed to treat seamen one way when at sea and in foreign ports, and another way when in England. There was no reason for treating desertion criminally on the voyage, and only civilly at its outset, when it might be most dangerous. He should not then enter into the broad question of desertion, as it was not within the scope of the Bill.

pointed out that the question raised by the clause was not foreign to the scope of the Bill of last year, which re-introduced the law as it stood, and simply modified it. The manner in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the virginity of his Bill was somewhat amusing, for, notwithstanding that the Bill was virgo intacta, it had produced two bouncing twins—deck loading and the provision as to foreign vessels. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have changed his mind on this subject since last Session. Then the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the existing law was defective, and expressed his willingness to consider the whole subject. Now, however, he was not prepared to do anything in the matter. One of the clauses under discussion last Session was in favour of limiting the period of imprisonment, and if the Government would now give a pledge next Session to amend the law with reference to the discipline on board merchant ships in direction of the clauses he proposed last Session, he would suggest the withdrawal of the present clause. If not, he would divide in favour of the proposal. The code which it was sought to modify was one of the most barbarous and unjustifiable that ever existed in a civilized country, and the Committee ought to have an explicit understanding from the Government upon the subject.

expressed a hope that before the debate closed the Government would give a positive assurance that they would at an early date deal with this very important question. At present the law was in a state of such uncertainty that it was absolutely necessary to place it upon a more intelligible and more satisfactory footing. Great disappointment had been felt and great dissatisfaction had been expressed by the shipping interest that discipline was not dealt with in the Bill. A late flagrant and patent instance had shown the uncertain state of the law when a magistrate could commit a captain to prison for enforcing discipline on board his own vessel—he alluded to the Locksley Hall case. He was afraid that desertion in foreign ports was largely on the increase, and there were some ports where shipowners knew they would lose their crews. The advance note was one of the most fertile causes of desertion. He objected to this part of the question being dealt with except as a whole; and, in doing so, he hoped the hands of captains would be strengthened in enforcing discipline on board their ships.

reminded the House that during the discussion of the Employers' and Workmen's Bill last year it was distinctly understood that sea service was of an exceptional character, and required exceptional legislation. As a general rule, he might say it was wise not to make regulations too stringent on either side, but to secure their being carried out with fairness. The question of discipline on board ship was not an easy one. He was most anxious that it should be fairly and fully considered on as early an occasion as possible, and under these circumstances he hoped his hon. and learned Friend would not press the adoption of his clause. He could assure the House that the subject would receive, not only the earnest, but the early attention of the Government, and he might add that he should not be sorry to see the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liverpool carried into practice, although he could not give a pledge to that effect. In the course of next Session he hoped a Bill on the subject would be introduced.

in view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, suggested that the clause should not be pressed on the present occasion. He trusted that the Government would even this Session consent to the appointment of a Committee. Under any circumstances he trusted they would not delay it beyond the next; and so far as he could speak for his hon. Friends, he might say that they, with himself, would only be too happy to consider the discipline clauses in the fairest manner. On some points the law was too severe and of no benefit to anyone. He hoped the clause would not be pressed.

suggested that the clause should be withdrawn, if it were clearly understood that the Government would deal with the subject next Session.

said, he should like to have heard a little more definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary than the one he had made, and that the subject should be dealt with in a comprehensive way. With that assurance he would press the hon. and learned Member for Chatham to withdraw the clause.

said, there was no difficulty in dealing at once with the proposition put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, which could be but small in effect on shipping interests, though large and beneficial in the sense of giving benefit to a class. There was nothing to prevent them putting an end to imprisonment for desertion, and no shipowner of eminence had asked for the continuance of the law. Shipowners should not have at hand a weapon to compel a sailor to serve on board of a ship which he believed to be unseaworthy.

opposed the clause. He thought that, while there was a feeling that the law with respect to the treatment of seamen was too severe, after the assurance which the Home Secretary had given that the question would be dealt with separately, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham ought not to press for the addition of the clause to a Bill with which it had no necessary connection. If the clause as it stood was agreed to, it would in fact attach no penalty to desertion on the high seas or in foreign ports, when the immediate consequences of such desertion might be great damage to property and danger to life. If such a change were made, it would in fact give encouragement to desertion. The Home Secretary had distinctly stated he was most anxious to place seamen under the protection of the Labour Laws passed last Session with respect to workers on land. Time would be required to consider how that could best be done, and he did hope that after the intimation which had been given the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press his clause.

did not see why the clause should not be added to the Bill, especially as the Home Secretary had admitted that the law for seamen should be assimilated to that of workmen on shore. But he would not press the clause to a division if the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone) were adopted for the appointment of a Committee to take this matter into consideration during the present Session with the view of recommending some course which should have the effect of modifying the existing law, or if the Government would undertake, either this Session or next, to deal with the whole question of the discipline of merchant seamen. If not, he must press the clause to a division.

thought the appeal made to the Government by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham was an exceedingly fair one. With one exception, every hon. Member who had spoken had declared the present state of the law to be indefensible. He hoped the Government would deal with the whole question in a generous spirit.

could not approve the course taken by the Government in this matter. Their legislation last year had tended to discourage discipline on shipboard. The proper way to deal with the matter was for the Government to accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), for the appointment of a Committee.

considered that too much reliance was placed upon imprisonment as a check for such offences as breach of contract, and said the result of his own observation was, that it did not prove effectual in dealing with working men, although it might have some deterrent effect on boys. It was a notable circumstance that from the judicial sta- tistics it appeared that breaches of contract had of late been decreasing year by year to a very considerable extent, and that this decrease had taken place in the face of the most extraordinary state of things with regard to fluctuations in trade when working men were put to the severest tests in keeping their contracts. He trusted that the Government would make some definite statement as to whether they would adopt the proposal for the appointment of a Committee, or whether they would assist him in passing the Bill by which he proposed to deal with the subject.

agreed with the proposal that the law with respect to seamen should be assimilated to that which affected landsmen. If the clause of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham was pressed to a division, he should certainly vote for it; though if it were agreed to, he would make a suggestion that its provisions should not apply to any seaman in any port after leaving the port of embarkation.

said, he had apparently not been understood when he made his statement in reply to the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford. He did say that the Government would deal with the subject next Session; and, therefore he had been much surprised to hear it said by one hon. Member after another that no distinct pledge had been given. He had not undertaken to deal with the whole question of naval discipline, but only with the relation of seamen to the Employers' and Workmen Act. After the Report of the Royal Commissioners on the Labour Laws last year, he did not think it necessary to refer the subject to a Committee, and as the Government would certainly deal with it next Session, he hoped the discussion would not be continued.

said, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought he would best consult the feelings of the Committee if he withdrew the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Proposed subsequent new Clause (Power of arrest in cases of desertion)—( Mr. Gorst),—by leave, withdrawn.

proposed the insertion of a new clause, providing that it should be the duty of our Consular agents at any port to prevent the shipping of any grain cargo or deck cargo, or the loading of any British ship, contrary to the provisions of the Act; authorizing Consuls and persons employed by them to go on board and inspect such ships, and to withhold the ship's papers until the Act was complied with. Its effect would be to render permanent the great success which had attended the powers given to the Consuls by the temporary Act of last Session preventing the shipping of grain cargoes or deck cargoes on board British ships in such a way as to endanger the safety of the vessels.

said, the Government, following in the wake of the hon. Gentleman in the Black Sea ports, and fully acknowledging his good example, had done what they could in this direction in foreign ports, but it was easier for a private person to visit and inspect vessels in a foreign port with the consent of their owners and masters than for Government officials to do so by authority. To empower any British Consul, or any persons employed by him, to go on board a British ship against the will of the captain, would require a very considerable regulation and official organization; nor could our Consular agents in every port be trusted with such duties and with the power to detain British vessels. The clause was also objectionable because it contained indirectly a provision for a Government "load line," and also gave the Consul power to withhold the ship's papers from the master until he had loaded properly in the Consul's judgment. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would be content with the good he had done and had been the means of the Government doing, and not run the risk of losing it all by straining the law.

in reply, said, he found that the Italian Consul in the Black Sea ports had power to withhold the ship's papers until the ship was properly loaded. When this remedy was in successful operation by the Consuls of a foreign country, it did not seem unreasonable to expect that it might be equally well applied by our own. He fully recognized the "omnipotence" of the Government upon the question, and would withdraw the clause, leaving with them the responsibility of refusing to accept it.

considered that the clause was an outrage on the liberty of the subject, and he was astonished that such a proposal should be made to the Committee. It was monstrous that a Consul or Vice Consul at any foreign port should have power to come on board a man's ship and interfere with his property as proposed by the hon. Member for Derby.

said, the hon. Baronet was not in Order in discussing the clause, as the question before the Committee was whether it should be withdrawn?

was inclined to put the matter to the test and object to the withdrawal of the clause, in order that the Committee might have an opportunity of condemning it. ["Hear!"] If they agreed that it was monstrous, he was satisfied.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

moved the insertion of a new clause—

"Providing, That before any British ship shall be cleared out the emigration agent or other officer appointed by the Board of Trade shall survey, or cause to be surveyed, the provisions, medicines, and water placed on board for the use of the crew and passengers, and shall satisfy himself that they are of wholesome and proper quality and in good condition, and in quantity sufficient for the crew and passengers throughout the voyage, and that if a clearance be obtained for any British ship which shall not be stored with sufficient provisions, medicines, and water, as required by the Act, the managing owner or master of such vessel shall be liable for each offence to a penalty not exceeding £100."
Parliament did not think it beneath its dignity to see that lodging-houses were inspected, or that cattle conveyed by train received food and water; and he did not see on what ground it could refuse to see that the provisions served out to their seamen were fit for human food. Instead of that, however, stores which were truly in a horrible condition, after simmering in pickle for seven or eight years, were sold by the English Government at Deptford, and were traced to certain ships. They had, by great injustice, and by the total neglect of the interests of the sailor, driven a large number of seamen out of the Merchant Service. He had received a letter from Captain Darcy, at Port Stanley, stating that there were at the time he wrote five British ships at that port, of which the crews preferred to become colonists through the portals of the gaol rather than go round the Cape at the risk of losing their fingers and toes by the use of unwholesome food. An Order in Council had recently been issued that sheep should not be carried on the decks of vessels in winter without an awning for their protection from the weather, and if sheep and cattle were not beneath the care of Parliament, reasonable attention should be paid to the health and comfort of our seamen.

Clause (Survey of provisions and medicines,)—( Mr. Plimsoll,)— brought up, and read the first time.

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

regretted that he was not in the House the other night when the hon. Member made a statement in regard to the sale of Government stores. The hon. Member was probably aware that a Return was in preparation, giving the details of the sale of Government stores, and the names of the persons to whom they were sold. It would shortly be ready, and would afford the means of tracing those provisions. He had made inquiry as to the conditions under which stores were sold at Deptford, and he could assure the Committee that so far as he knew the instructions of the Admiralty, which were most distinct and precise, that nothing unfit for human food should be sold, were carried out. When the stores came in they were surveyed, and if they were unfit for human food the order was that they should be instantly destroyed. It sometimes happened that stores which could not be re-issued for a five or six years' voyage might be fit for a short voyage to the Mediterranean. Inquiries were being made at Gibraltar and Malta as to whether the orders of the Admiralty were carried out, and as soon as he received the information he would be happy to lay it on the Table.

thought the clause was one which deserved the serious attention of the Government, but suggested that it should be made applicable only to vessels undertaking long voyages, such as round Cape Horn or to Australia. No doubt the absence of a survey of provi- sions might have been in some in stances a cause of seamen deserting their ships.

said, there were two propositions before the Committee; one that this clause should be applied to all vessels, and the other that it should be applied to vessels on long voyages; but he contended that it would be impossible to apply it to either case. The hon. Member for Derby had too much confidence in the Government, and wanted to throw upon it the minutest responsibilities of every conceivable kind. Such continual Government interference as the hon. Member would have might do in France and other similar nations, but it was absolutely contrary to the genius of this country. If the clause were agreed to, there was no reason why a Proviso should not be added to oblige the Government to inspect the provisions and medicines of all private houses, or at least in all large establishments to have the water analyzed, the medicines tested, and the food inspected. If they were to interfere in all cases where possibly good could be done and evil prevented there would be no limit to Government inspection. If they were to accept the argument that because there were orders to have awnings over sheep, why not have equal care over men, who were more valuable than sheep, it would come to having Orders in Council for awnings over their labourers. He must not only refuse to accept the clause, but protest against the spirit of it.

said, he did not often agree with the hon. Member for Derby, but confessed that he thoroughly coincided with him as to the necessity for such a clause as this. It was perfectly certain that however good meat might be when put on board ship, it would soon be unfit for human food unless properly taken care of when there by the captain or some other officer. If pickle or brine was allowed to run out of the casks, the best beef or pork that ever went on board ship would be worthless.

supported the clause. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that Inspectors had now the right to enter and inspect a house believed to be in an unsanitary condition. The right hon. Gentleman told them that stores were sold by the Royal Navy as unfit for use; but who bought those stores? Brokers bought them, and sold them to emigrant ships. He could not see any objection to the clause, and he thought there had been a very fair case made out for inspection of stores for long voyages. In the Navy, where provisions were inspected, there was no scurvy; but in the Mercantile Marine it was rife.

in supporting the clause, said great care was taken in respect to the quality of provisions in troop-ships, and he considered on behalf of their sailors that equal care should be taken in seeing that their provisions were sound and wholesome.

doubted whether inspection would be of any use. A Committee of the House, which sat to inquire into the failure of Goldner's preserved meats, showed how useless such inspection proved. It was only by extraordinary care taken by preserving in the Naval Victualling Yards that provisions were kept good. He remembered when, some years ago, he served in Her Majesty's ship Trinculo, on the West Coast of Africa, there were provisions on board which were preserved in 1809, and having eaten of those provisions in 1834, and subsequently some years after, he found they proved to be quite good. He thought the hon. Gentleman was asking too much in this clause. It would be better to leave the matter to be discovered on occasional voyages, which would prevent those who had supplied improper provisions from being again employed.

said, he had been at a loss to understand the speech of the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Palmer) until he remembered the speech of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates), when he learned that what they both wanted was to avoid a clean bill of health. It would no doubt be a great relief to the shipowners if the Board of Trade would take upon itself all their responsibilities, but he would not then envy the right hon. Gentleman his position.

said, he failed to perceive that there was any argument against his proposal that would not weigh with equal force against the inspection of food put on board emigrant ships for the consumption of the passengers. Again, we inspected the food sent into the metropolis, and the inspection of food on board ship was a much more important matter. Ashore a man could change his butcher, if he found the meat bad; but the sailor had to throw his provisions overboard, if they were not good, and have recourse to chewing tobacco. So far from an occasional failure rendering inspection illusory, it was calculated to give it greater reality, as the Inspectors would on the next occasion be more upon their guard.

supported the clause. When he was Sheriff of London he had to attend the trial of the Flowery Land mutineers, and he felt convinced the men would have never mutinied nor have been handed over to him for execution had proper food been supplied to them on shipboard.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 114: Majority 47.

having moved a new clause which was not upon the Paper, enabling the relatives of deceased sea-men to recover damages against the shipowners in certain cases where the deaths had resulted from a breach of the provisions of the Bill—

said, that the hon. and learned Attorney General had been stating objections to a clause which was not upon the Paper, and the terms of which had not been heard by those who sat on the Opposition side of the House.

After short conversation,

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

On the Motion of Mr. Rathbone, after Clause 27, the following clause:—

(Power for Her Majesty by Order in Council to apply certain provisions of Merchant Shipping Acts to foreign ships.)
"Whenever it has been made to appear to Her Majesty that the Government of any Foreign State is desirous that any of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts, 1854 to 1876, shall apply to the ships of such State, Her Majesty may by Order in Council declare that such of the said provisions as are in such Order specified, shall (subject to the limitations, if any, contained in the Order) apply, and thereupon, so long as the Order remains in force, such provisions shall apply (subject to the said limitations) to the ships of such State, and to the owners, masters, officers, and crews of such ships when not within the jurisdiction of such State, in the same manner in all respects as if such ships were British ships.
It shall be lawful for Her Majesty from time to time by Order in Council to add to, alter, or repeal any Order made under this section."

was agreed to, and added to the Bill.

Schedule verbally amended, and agreed to.

On Question, "That the Chairman report the Bill, as amended?"

said, that he would, when the Speaker got into the Chair, move that the Bill should be immediately reprinted, and then hon. Members would find that after 12 nights of discussion scarcely a single alteration had been made in it. Two material additions—that relating to the Court of Appeal and that relating to the Wreck Commission—had been made to it at the instance of the Government, and two or three clauses had been added on the Motions of private Members; but otherwise it practically remained in the form in which it had been introduced into the House by the Government. He wished that the fact should be clearly understood, because it had been stated by some hon. Members that the Bill as introduced was so confused that no one could comprehend it. The measure contained the whole of the temporary Act that was passed last year, and also the main provisions of the Bill that was dropped at the end of last Session.

said, though the alterations made in the Bill were small, the attempts to obtain alterations had been great. He was glad to hear that the Bill was to be reprinted, and hoped that there would be another opportunity to urge the consideration of particular points upon which a great deal had been said, but which the Government had failed to appreciate.

said, that though he had spoken out candidly against some of the Government proposals, he disclaimed any discourtesy towards the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill. He, however, represented a constituency which was not satisfied with the Bill. He regarded that measure as a thoroughly honest attempt to deal with the subject, and he admitted that there was much that was valuable in it; but he appealed to the Government not to adhere to certain clauses which had been disapproved of at every port in the Kingdom.

reminded the hon. Member that at this stage it was not usual to discuss the provisions of the Bill.

asked when the Report would be taken. He hoped it would not be taken immediately, because, although his right hon. Friend was quite right in saying that not many alterations had been made, yet the provisions with regard to deck cargoes and foreign ships were very considerable changes.

said, he would formally name Thursday for the bringing up of the Report, with the view of then naming another day when there could be a discussion, if it should be thought necessary.

Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, as amended; to be considered upon Thursday, and to be printed. [Bill 144.]

Supply Committee

Order for Committee read.

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

Navy—Ships Of War

Resolution

in rising to move the following Resolution:—

"That this House, while approving the programme of work on iron-clad ships for the ensuing financial year, is of opinion that the present is a fitting opportunity for reviewing our shipbuilding policy and the resources of the Mercantile Marine for naval purposes; and this House is further of opinion that this inquiry should be held by a Royal Commission,"
said: The Resolution I am about to move is drawn in terms which cannot be regarded as unfriendly to the Government. I regret the large expenditure on unarmoured ships which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty has hitherto refused to recognize as forming part of the effective strength of the Navy; but I am not aware that the designs for the iron-clads now in construction have been disapproved by any competent critics. Having disclaimed any intention to criticize the ships at present being constructed, still less am I disposed to speak unfavourably of the designs approved by the late Government. Turning from the past and present to the future, I may remind the House that it was stated by the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his speech on moving the Navy Estimates, that it had been decided not to lay down any new iron-clads during the ensuing financial year. I do not accuse the Admiralty of unnecessary hesitation in coming to a decision on the infinitely vexed question of naval construction; but, if no new ships are to be laid down, it cannot be urged that our shipbuilding will be delayed by further inquiry. It may be said, however, that the Department is at least as competent an authority on shipbuilding questions as any Royal Commission that could be appointed. I gladly acknowledge that the present Naval Lords, if they were not in office, would constitute a most able Commission. But my fear is that they have no leisure to investigate new problems of armament, tactics, and construction. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), in seconding a similar Motion by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), in 1868, said, as I think, truly, that—
"When a great policy had been inaugurated, he could well understand that a Department of the State might efficiently carry it out; but it was unlikely that such a policy could be initiated by a Government Department."—[3 Hansard, cxciii. 1118.]
In the same debate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) said—
"That he could at the same time have wished that the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) had been able to lay before the House some plan, which, without diminishing the responsibility of the Constructive department of the Admiralty, or diminishing its responsibility for all that was done under its superintendence, would give it the advantage of a certain amount of scientific investigation and advice."—[Ibid. 1139.]
The controversy as to the continued use of side-armour must naturally arouse the greatest anxiety in the country. It is said that unless armour be strong enough to keep out shells, it is worse than useless; and armour, more or less impenetrable, even when limited to vital places, involves a large addition to the cost, and an increase of dimen- sions, tending to diminish that mobility, which is of the last importance, if, as Admiral Jurien de la Gravière predicts, ships will fight in the future with the rams alone. In our Navy there is an almost hopeless conflict of opinion. Captain Noel insists that excessive top-weight should be avoided. On the other hand, I am assured, in an able letter from an admiral in a high command, that our men would have no chance if they had to contend with heavy guns, protected by a turret, and therefore fired with confidence and precision. The painful uncertainty, in which we are placed in this country, is shared by every Maritime Power. In Russia, attention is being directed chiefly to the circular iron-clads, the Popoffkas, which are intended solely for coast defence. In Germany, it has been decided to lay down no more iron-clads at present. M. Dislere, one of the constructors of the French Navy, says that the progress made by artillery has rendered it useless to retain armour for ocean-going cruisers. The views of M. Dislere are borne out by the passing events in naval construction. The Inflexible, which has just been launched, is protected by 18 inch-armour, and the Dandolo by 12 inch-armour. When the progress of gunnery has rendered 22 inch-armour insufficient, Messrs. Cammell undertake to roll plates of 30 or even 40 inches—
"For the moment," as it is observed in The Times report, "the advantages seem to be in favour of armour; and yet a target, representing the strongest portion of the armour of the Inflexible, was penetrated a few months ago at 1,800 metres by a Krupp gun. "While, however, we find an eminent French authority announcing that armour will shortly be laid aside, in his annual report, published last December. Admiral Porter says that the aim of the United States should be, in making changes, to resist the shot from the 12-inch 35-ton, which at 200 yards perforates 15 inches of solid wrought iron. He asks for 24 first-class ships; but such vessels will represent, in his opinion, no decided power for offence or defence, unless they carry sufficient thickness of armour to resist the average rifled gun, and have speed to get within striking distance of the enemy. Wooden vessels add nothing to the fighting force, just as, in former days, engagements fought with frigates never materially affected the result of a war. For fighting purposes, he prefers a turreted vessel to any other."
I do not pretend to offer an opinion of my own. When, however, we observe such a wide difference of view, it is our duty, as representatives of the taxpayers, to take care that these subjects are thoroughly investigated before we commit ourselves to large ships, which may be condemned as obsolete before they are completed. Since this subject was last reviewed by the Admiralty Committee on Designs, great progress has been made in perfecting offensive torpedoes. Many authorities declare that the most effectual defence against the torpedo is to be found in further developments of the cellular system of construction. According to Mr. Barnaby, on the other hand, it is idle to attempt to form the bottom of a ship strong enough to resist a fair blow from a powerful torpedo. Each costly iron clad should be defended against the torpedo and the ram by a number of small unarmoured vessels. But how are you to keep such a flotilla together? If, however, our great iron-clads are to be attended by a cloud of skirmishers, they cannot venture far from their base of operations. Great coal-carrying capacity will no longer be necessary, and the high free-board and other features of a sea-going ship may be materially reduced. The Motion I originally placed on the Paper contained a recommendation that designs for various types of fighting vessels should be invited from private shipbuilders. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) has recently constructed for the Chilian Navy two vessels, each of 2,000 tons, armed with six 12-ton guns, protected by armour of 8 and 9 inches. Messrs. Ronnie have built two gunboats for the Peruvian Government, little larger than the gunboats of our Staunch type, but carrying 26-ton instead of 18-ton guns. Mr. Mackrow has recently designed the Vasco de Gama for the Portuguese Government, which vessel carries two 18-ton guns, protected by a circular breastwork, armoured with 10-inch armour. The ship carries in addition one 6½-ton gun, and two 40-pounders, and has, I believe, been built for £100,000. These examples suggest the expediency of following the precedent of 1867, when six of our most eminent firms were invited to submit competitive designs. Having regard to the danger to which the most powerful ships are exposed when attacked by the ram or torpedo, I should like to fix the limit of cost at £150,000, or even £100,000. A perfect ship could not be built for such a sum; but the attempt to unite in a single vessel every quality can only end in an unsatisfactory compromise. On a former occasion, when a similar competition took place, Sir Spencer Robinson and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke were called upon to decide between the respective merits of the various proposals. The anomaly of this position was pointed out by Sir Spencer Robinson. I have thus far confined my allusions to the fighting Navy, but the naval resources of this country are not limited to the fleet especially constructed for war. The latest Returns show that, in our Mercantile Marine, we have 419 steamers of 1,200 tons register, and upwards. The extraordinary regularity of the passages made between Queenstown and New York is sufficient evidence of the steaming and coal-carrying capabilities of these ships, and the torpedo provides the means of defending them against the most powerful vessels of war. It therefore makes them a source of great naval strength. The owners of ocean-going steamers should be encouraged by judicious subsidies to build their ships of such a type that they could be converted, if necessary, into armed cruisers. This object can only be attained by making arrangements beforehand, when the designs are being prepared. Numerous precedents might be cited, of independent inquiry, by Commissions and Committees, into the condition of the Navy. It may not be equally widely known that a Commission, precisely similar to that which I propose, has recently been authorized by the United States House of Representatives. This Commission is to consider the great changes which have taken place of late years in naval warfare, and to recommend the best type of ship to meet these changes. They are to report on the whole subject, and to enable Congress to consider intelligently, and to legislate upon, naval affairs in all their branches. The last is precisely the object I have in view. Under our Parliamentary system, it is essential that every Department of the Government should carry with it the approval of the public, even in matters of administrative detail. There is no alter- native, therefore, for the Admiralty but to satisfy the country that the expenditure they propose is unnecessary, that their designs for ships are well-considered, and that everything that it is practicable to do is being done to make the great resources of the country available as a reserve for the Navy, and so to diminish, as far as may be, the cost of our standing force in time of peace. The Report of the proposed Commission should be an invaluable document in the hands of the First Lord in pleading with Parliament on behalf of the Navy. It will not be necessary to make disclosures on points of detail. In Parliament we want only that general information which will enable us to determine whether or not armour should be retained. We want advice as to the relative value of armoured and unarmoured ships, and as to the necessity or otherwise of building unarmoured ships of the vast dimensions of the Inconstant or the Raleigh. Thus far I have referred to the different modes in which money may be spent to strengthen the Navy. May we not venture, however, to hope that the Commission might be able to suggest economies in other directions? I noticed only the other day that £23,000 had been spent in repairing the Salamis. Can it be supposed that any private shipowner would have allowed such a sum as I have named to be spent in repairing a despatch boat of 835 tons? Admiral Porter has suggested in his last Report that iron cruisers should be built for the United States Navy, and kept on the stocks until the outbreak of a war. In this way all waste from wear and tear and dry-rot would be avoided. Might not we do the same thing with advantage? In conclusion, assuming that such an inquiry as I have suggested were to be ordered, the question is whether it should be conducted by a Committee or a Commission. A Commission is to be preferred as being more independent. It may be that the Report would be wholly in favour of the designs submitted by the Admiralty. If such were the result, it would be eminently gratifying, both to the Constructors' department and to the public. If, on the other hand, the result should be that some suggestions were obtained, which had not hitherto been adopted by the Admiralty, that again would be valuable, as tending to make our Navy stronger and more efficient than before. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution.

said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion. His hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) had, in his able statements, made the case so clear in favour of a Royal Commission that he would only occupy the attention of the House for a very short time. Since the Committee on Designs sat in 1871, enormous changes had been effected in naval warfare. In gunnery great advances had been made. Hydraulic machinery enabled us to carry guns capable of piercing armour far thicker than could possibly be carried afloat. The 81 and 38-ton guns could now be carried and worked with greater facility than the 25-ton gun could be worked in 1871—and a very limited number of men were required. The power of the ram had been shown with deadly effect in the case of the Vanguard, and no doubt existed that it must prove a most important weapon in any naval action. Lastly, the knowledge of the locomotive torpedo had advanced with marvellous strides, and month after month great discoveries were made which proved the fearful power of this weapon. He believed we had entered into a new phase of naval warfare, which must, to a great extent, revolutionize our ideas of modern shipbuilding. The great problem of the day was how to protect the vitals in a ship, and how to render her unsinkable in the face of these new weapons. He believed that however unpalatable and worrying such an inquiry might prove to the Admiralty, it could not fail to be of great service, and must be economical. It would enable us to have access to information now practically closed, and bring in the able, healthy, and intelligent criticisms of clear and impartial minds. He thought it would certainly bring one matter into prominence, and that was the urgent necessity of diffusing our strength over a greater area, of having smaller ships and a greater number of them, so as not to have our eggs as at present in a very limited number of baskets. The loss of one ship now was a great national disaster. He thought serious attention ought to be speedily drawn to the enormous power developed by the Whitehead locomotive torpedo, and to the present unprotected condition of our great iron-clads. Up to a short time ago, this weapon could only be fired out of particular vessels properly fitted, and at a speed of only 9 knots. Now that was entirely changed. Experiments had shown at Portsmouth that we could launch it from the surface with the greatest facility, even from the bow or beam, and without any special fitting. These torpedoes were now being made to go from 20 to 22 knots an hour to a distance of 300 yards, and at a lower rate to travel no less than a mile. In stating this he was revealing no secret, as he saw it announced quite recently in a newspaper report. The Committee would see at once what a vast change this had effected in modern warfare, every little steamer, every passenger steamer, and every tiny boat could now use these terrible weapons. The effect of a single torpedo of this description fired against one of our iron-clads, if it did not send her to the bottom, would undoubtedly do her enormous harm. It was to his mind a question of the gravest importance, and one well fitting special inquiry. How were their present ships to be protected? The cellular principle carried out to a great extent and double iron bottoms might in some measure offer protection, but it must be remembered that even now the locomotive torpedo was only in its infancy. If the right hon. Gentleman granted the Commission or Committee, he hoped that special steps would be taken to see if the proceedings could not be kept confidential. A general Report might be issued, but he thought the details ought not to be made public. It appeared to him that we were a great deal too open to foreigners. We spent large sums in costly experiments year after year, and in building vessels of the most approved type, with all the latest improvements, and then deliberately showed them all to any foreign officers who desired to become acquainted with what we were doing. Not only did we do this, but we actually went out of our way to show to the foreign officers what we kept a secret from our own officers. It appeared to him that this was most suicidal. If it was impossible to keep matters secret from foreign officers, then let your experiments be made public, and invite that wholesome criticism from our own officers, and from engineers of eminence, which could not fail to be of great benefit, but he deprecated most strongly the present system of only giving the information to foreign officers. It was sometimes said that we obtained reciprocal advantages. He doubted if there was any reciprocity whatever. He had spoken to officers and civil engineers of great standing, and they all concurred that we got nothing of any importance from foreign nations—but that, on the contrary, they took great care to keep any discoveries they made to themselves. Only the other day the newspapers announced that Admiral Pop off, the Russian Naval Constructor, had been to Chatham; that the greatest civility had been shown him, and that all the latest designs and improvements had been laid before him. The next day we were told he had been to Portsmouth, and that he and his official staff had spent the whole time inspecting the various improvements. This condition of things had gone on for a long time. It was well known that some years ago the percussion fuze, "Moorsom's Fuze," was a secret jealously kept, and none of our officers were able to obtain any information about it. At last a translation was obtained from a Russian pamphlet, containing a full account of it. Again, only about two years ago, a diagram was carefully made out, showing the various distances at which British and foreign iron-clads could be pierced by our large guns. This was by way of being a most confidential document, and was allowed to captains in command of vessels, and certain other high officials, but the information was denied to everybody else. After this state of things had gone on for some time, it was discovered that the Foreign Attachés had been allowed copies, and the result was that this valuable and authentic information was circulated amongst all foreign Governments, whilst our own officers were not allowed the privilege of becoming acquainted with facts of great importance to them in their profession. Perhaps nothing more absurd could be imagined than what happened last year at Portsmouth. It was well known that for some time past we had been conducting great experiments with locomotive torpedoes before a very able Committee of naval officers. Many most valuable discoveries had been made, and the Reports were supposed to be of a strictly confidential character. We had it the same time a number of officers going through a torpedo course of instruction, and with them, as usual, two or three foreign officers. The torpedo school was, of course, quite distinct from the experimental Committee. One day some of the officers under instruction were discussing amongst themselves how the experiments were progressing, and wondering what was being done, when, to the astonishment of everyone, one of the foreign officers present said—"Oh! I can tell you, here is the last Report." It was only too true, the Report was produced from his pocket, and on it was seen the Admiralty stamp, proving that it had been obtained direct from that quarter. He thought this sort of thing was most suicidal. It was a question which the Treasury ought to take up, and with a strong hand prevent the Departments giving away the benefit of the large expenditure we annually incurred in experiments. No doubt, after a certain time, all new inventions became public; but he ventured to think that for some few months, or for a year or two, we might keep our own secrets. He hoped, if the Commission or Committee were granted, that this matter would be well considered in framing their instructions. There could be no necessity to make known the evidence, or the detailed statement of such a body, and a short Report would be quite sufficient for the general public. He begged to second the Motion.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while approving the programme of work on iron-clad ships for the ensuing financial year, is of opinion that the present is a fitting opportunity for reviewing our shipbuilding policy, and the resources of the mercantile marine for naval purposes; and this House is further of opinion that such inquiry should be held by a Royal Commission,"—(Mr. T. Brassey,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

said, the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Brassey) practically comprised two parts. It approved the programme of the Government so far as iron-clad building was concerned, and it invited the Government to appoint a Royal Commission. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty would do them the justice to admit that while they had endeavoured to perform their duties as critics with regard to naval administration, they had been moderate in their criticisms on the proposals he had made. They had never divided against the sums of money he had asked the House to vote, and had scarcely offered any opposition to his policy, so far as he had a policy, in the matter of shipbuilding. While they had criticized the statements he had made and sanctioned the reasons he had assigned for the course he took, he was not sure they had not gone far in the direction of supporting his proposals and somewhat exposed themselves to criticism on their own side for their too great alacrity in supporting those largely increased Estimates demanded by the right hon. Gentleman. At all events, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would admit, so far as he had a shipbuilding policy, they had not offered any opposition to which he could object in the carrying out of that policy. He would endeavour to deal with this question also in the fairest spirit to the right hon. Gentleman. When the House was called upon to vote for a Royal Commission he ventured to ask himself what would have been his answer had such a proposal been made when he was at the Admiralty. Of course, much would depend on whether one had a policy of one's own. If the Government had got a distinct policy upon any one particular subject, then a proposal to appoint a Commission was considered rather in the light of a somewhat adverse Motion, and it was the tendency of Government to resist such Motions. But what the House particularly wished now to know was what were the views of the right hon. Gentleman. Had he a policy as regarded iron-clad shipbuilding? During the tenure of office of the last three First Lords of the Admiralty there had been a distinct policy of shipbuilding, approved by some parties, disapproved by others, but, at all events, a distinct policy. The late Mr. Corry had a policy, which he proposed and carried out. He proposed the building of six ships of the Audacious class. They were a new class. He had a strong opinion in regard to them. They involved an increase of expenditure; but the House approved his policy, and he carried it out. He was succeeded by his (Mr. Goschen's) right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), to whom was due the policy which created the Devastation class, the Thunderer and the Dreadnought. That policy was greatly questioned at the time, but ultimately approved by the House. The Hotspur was a ship for which the credit was due, so far as it was successful, to Mr. Corry; so was the Glatton. The Rupert and the Ram belonged to his right hon. Friend. By both those First Lords a distinct policy was submitted to the House. When he (Mr. Goschen) had the honour to be at the Admiralty, it was his duty to propose a certain advance in shipbuilding policy, and it fell to his lot to submit designs of the Inflexible, the Téméraire, and the Superb—all ships of a novel kind, which involved a new policy. One point was the central citadel and the development to a greater degree of the bow fire. The question had always been, what was the policy of the Admiralty? In quoting the policy of these three Administrations his object was not to revive any controversy about the credit of one Administration or the other, but to point out that, for good or evil, there had been a distinct policy in the Admiralty. They knew what ships they wanted to propose, and on what class it was desirable to spend the funds that were voted. It would not have been right to demand of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he adhered to the policy of his Predecessor, or if he had a policy of his own during his first two years of office; but he had now entered on his third year of office, and he thought he would admit they might now appeal to him to state whether he had a distinct policy as regarded iron-clad shipbuilding. The right hon. Gentleman had made proposals to continue the repairs of iron-clads of a smaller class than the ships he had enumerated; but we had now arrived at a point when we must know from the right hon. Gentleman what line he intended to adopt—whether ships of the Inflexible class, or of a smaller class were to be continued, or whether ships of the Inflexible class were to be abandoned. It was known that the right hon. Gentleman had ordered two Inflexibles and also two ships of the Shannon class, a design which had been brought to the notice of Parliament before the right hon. Gentleman acceded to office. Now, the offer he, so far as he was personally concerned, would make to the right hon. Gentleman was that if he stated he had, with the assistance of his able advisers, clear views with regard to iron-clad shipbuilding, he (Mr. Goschen) would support the policy of the right hon. Gentleman just as he would a policy of his own, and would vote against a Commission; because during the whole process of a Commission the responsibility of the advisers of the Admiralty was greatly embarrassed and hampered, and they could not be expected to perform their duties as they would in ordinary times. But if the right hon. Gentleman would state that he had no policy, though the Naval Estimates had been increased £400,000 a-year each year he had been in office—if he would state that he did not see his way, but would like to call in assistance from without, the House would do well to assist the right hon. Gentleman in finding a policy. If the right hon. Gentleman consented to a Commission, he would, no doubt, get the best advice he could from all quarters. In that way he would obtain the great advantage of getting the brains which were outside the Constructor's department; but he must take that advantage with the corresponding disadvantage of conducting the inquiry in the face of the public and of other nations. What would be instructive in the history of Commissions would be to see how the appointment of those which had been previously made had assisted the Executive Government in the discharge of its duties. We had had a notable instance in the Commission which sat on the Bill that had occupied the House in the earlier part of the evening, and the whole Report of which had been practically disregarded in the legislation which had followed. However, nothing could be worse than that we should go on without any policy. He would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to pursue one of two courses—either on that, or a future occasion, to take the House into his confidence, and explain his views with regard to iron-clads, or to accept the suggestion that the composition of the Fleet should be determined by the advice which the right hon. Gentleman would call in from without. Whichever alternative the right hon. Gentleman adopted, he might rely upon fair criticisms of the plans which he might submit to the House.

said, he believed that the proposals made during the three previous Administrations had been arrived at in precisely the same way as those of the present Admiralty. The same officers had produced their plans, and the present First Lord had dealt with them in the same way as his Predecessor. Now, he had long ago expressed the opinion, which he still entertained, that when people were engaged in one groove of thought they were not so likely to develop new and valuable plans as to enlarge upon that which had been their practice hitherto. He therefore thought the remarks of his right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London would have been more valuable if he could have shown that the three previous Administrations of the Admiralty had pursued a policy that was superior or more likely to be permanent than the one at present pursued. With regard to the position of our Navy, some things had been stated with which he could not agree. For example, we had been led to believe that the country ought to be exceedingly uncomfortable on account of the building of circular iron-clads in Russia. There could be no greater bugbear. At the Institute of Naval Architects he had shown that the best of these vessels was taking five times as much power to propel it as the ordinary vessels we were constructing, and that, notwithstanding this enormous power, it had only acquired the means of going something like 8 knots an hour; and Mr. Froude informed him that if these vessels had been driven at 9 knots an hour, they would have been driven under water. In fact, they were nothing more than floating fortresses and in that capacity might be of some advantage, but as ships of war they might be disregarded; at all events, they were of no serious importance. Then we had been told about certain vessels built for the Chilian and Portuguese Governments. These vessels were not of a size or construction which would be suitable for a great country like our own. At the same time the Portuguese Minister had laid down some conditions which were worth considering. Instead of prescribing a plan to the builders, thus shutting out possible improvements, the Portuguese Government said—"Construct for us the best vessels you can construct for a specified sum." That example deserved imitation. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) asked what assistance previous Commissions had given in this matter. Not much, certainly. The late Mr. Corry, to whom the country owed great gratitude for the immense improvements he introduced into our steam Navy, saw the great advantage which was to be gained from external assistance, and with this view called upon a number of the best constructors in the country to place before him their plans for the best class of vessels. After Mr. Corry had obtained that information from the private firms, it was rendered nugatory by the course subsequently pursued by the employés of the Admiralty. The particulars were handed over to the Controller of the Navy and the Chief Constructor, the upshot being that all the plans were thrown aside, and that a proposal of the Chief Constructor was substituted for all the rest. This was a policy which he hoped his right hon. Friend would not adopt. He might here remark that he entertained the very highest opinion of the officers who were now engaged under his right hon. Friend in the construction of ships. His hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) had led the House to imagine that the German Government had ceased to build iron-clads, but the truth was that no other Government in Europe was so actively engaged in constructing them. At this moment Germany had seven iron-clad ships which were not completed. These had been in course of construction between three and five years, and the reason why they were not yet finished was simply because sufficient manual labour could not be obtained. The most important point which had been alluded to was that of speed. This was one of the elements which was daily growing more important, and he believed it would become a positively exchangeable term for thickness of armour. If we had a greater amount of speed and a less thickness of armour, we should have an equally if not a more formidable ship. Under the circumstances, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, although he was not inferior to his Predecessors in his policy for giving the country an efficient Fleet, would derive considerable advantage from external assistance, and he should be glad if the Admiralty could see their way to fortify themselves by some such arrangement as that proposed by his hon. Friend.

said, his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) had remarked that that was a favourable opportunity for reviewing our shipbuilding policy and had asked the Government to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into it and into the resources of our Mercantile Marine for naval purposes. His hon. Friend founded his opinion that that was a favourable opportunity, on the fact that it was not proposed to lay down any new iron-clad during the present year. His hon. Friend, however, was mistaken in thinking he (Mr. Hunt) had said that no iron-clad would be laid down until the vessels now in course of construction were completed. He had not bound himself to that course; but what he really said was that, in the present state of things, looking to the comparative state of our armoured and unarmoured fleet, he did not think he should propose to Parliament to lay down an iron-clad this year. He admitted that if there were to be such a review as his hon. Friend proposed, this was not an unfitting opportunity for the purpose. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) proposed to him to meet this apparent dilemma. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Either you have no shipbuilding policy—and in that case you will do well to accept the invitation of the hon. Member for Hastings—or else you have a shipbuilding policy, and then you must resist the Motion." Now, he did not consider that was a proper alternative, for he might have a shipbuilding policy and yet be willing to accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Hastings, or something like it. The right hon. Gentleman pointed to the shipbuilding policy of Mr. Corry and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, and said to him—"What shipbuilding policy have you?" He would come to that presently. During his administration Mr. Corry, whom the right hon. Gentleman said had a shipbuilding policy, invited designs from outside in aid of the resources of the Admiralty; and it seemed, therefore, that he (Mr. Hunt) might accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hastings without at all admitting that he had no policy. It was said when the last change of Government was made that larger demands for the Navy were to be expected. No doubt; and no one had better grounds for expecting those increased demands than the right hon. Gentleman who preceded him at the Admiralty and who knew what state the Navy was in when he left it, and what were its deficiencies. Then it was asked, what was the shipbuilding policy of the Government. Well, he defied any man to lay down a definite shipbuilding policy for the future—for this reason, that inventions and discoveries were daily being made which upset all previous calculations. Why, within a comparatively short period they had changed from the wooden ship to the iron-clad, from the iron-clad to the turret, and now they reached the armed citadel ship. However wise First Lords of the Admiralty might be, could any one, in view of these facts, venture to decide, three or four years in advance, what particular type of ship should be built? His shipbuilding policy was this—to keep pace with the inventions of the day and to keep ahead of all maritime Powers. Well, how was he carrying that policy out? When he came into office he found a great number of ships called obsolete—that was to say, ships which we would not lay down at the present day, but which, nevertheless, if put in proper order, would be able to meet vessels of other Powers built about the same time. Some of those ships he found in so defective a state that they were unfit to be sent to sea, or, at all events, to take part in an engagement; and, accordingly, he asked the House to increase the resources of the Admiralty in order to put these ships into a proper state. As hon. Members knew, it was a work of much less time to repair ships than to construct new ones, and the result was that from the time he took office the number of effective sea-going iron-clads had increased from 14 to 20, not to speak of those two powerful vessels the Devastation and the Thunderer. The latter, he might say, was not actually completed, but for all practical purposes might be considered so; and in two months another ship would be ready. Thus a great improvement had been made in the capabilities of the Navy, notwithstanding that great disas- ter the loss of the Vanguard. Concurrently with the repair of the ships he had mentioned, four new iron-clads had been laid down. Well, the right hon. Gentleman said—"You have laid down two iron-clads of the Shannon class and two iron-clads of the Inflexible class; which do you prefer? because by laying down two ships of one kind and two of another, you seem to be halting between two opinions." [Mr. Goschen: No, no!] At any rate, if the right hon. Gentleman did not say that, he asked what the shipbuilding policy of the Government was. His answer to the right hon. Gentleman was, that different classes of iron-clads were required for different purposes, and that in considering what policy they were to pursue, it was necessary to bear in mind the purposes for which ships would be required. They had, for instance, to meet an enemy in battle, to protect our commerce against an enemy's armed and unarmed cruisers, and also to inflict injury on an enemy's commerce in return. Well, for the protection of our commerce from armed cruisers, he had laid down two ships of the Shannon class of an improved type, a knot an hour faster, carrying more coal stowage, and armoured at the stern as well as at the prow, and therefore more efficient as fighting ships. As regarded line-of-battle ships he had followed the type of the Inflexible, and had laid down two ships of a less size and less costly, with an armed citadel in the centre, and with less tonnage than the Inflexible, not quite so powerfully armed, carrying not such thick armour, and with a less draught of water, preferring to build ships of a smaller size, as he recognized the truth of the saying that we ought not to put all our eggs into one basket. For the purpose they were designed to serve, he believed those ships were the best that could at the present time be devised. However, he was not prepared to say that as new discoveries were made the Inflexible type might not be improved upon, and it was for that reason that he declined to pledge himself to any particular class of ship for the future. All he would say was, that so far as their present knowledge went they had laid down the best type of ship they could, and that if in future any improvements were made upon it, they would not be slow to adopt them. This year he proposed to build un- armoured ships, because at the present time we had not enough of them. He had recognized it as his first duty to provide a sufficient number of ships of battle, but the protection of our commerce was a very important consideration. Well, he had to tell the House, and it was really a very serious statement to make, that if war broke out to-morrow he had not a single unarmoured ship to dispose of that was not already in commission. Under these circumstances, it seemed to him his bounden duty to lay down unarmoured vessels for the purpose of protecting our commerce in case of war, and, without saying that our naval power was as great as could be wished, we had certainly arrived at a point where we were practically safe and able to meet any combination that would be likely to be brought against us. But it seemed to him our unarmoured ships should not only be able to protect our commerce, but also to annoy an enemy's cruisers, and if necessary take part in a naval battle. The unarmoured ships which he asked the House to sanction were ships of a class which he believed would be exceedingly useful for the double purpose he had named. They would be useful as regarded the protection of our commerce and the annoyance of the enemy's commerce, and as auxiliaries to the iron-clad fleet. It was proposed they should have a speed of 13 knots and—this was a new feature—an armoured deck 3 feet below the water-line, which would entirely protect the machinery and boilers. They would also have a ram bow, and they would be armed with torpedoes. He believed ships of this class would be useful in times of peace; and in times of war they would be absolutely essential to protect our commerce from vessels like the Alabama. Some of those vessels would take about two years to complete, and the design upon which they were laid down was, as regarded the armoured deck, upon a principle recommended by Admiral Elliot in his Report on Designs of Ships of War. As to the question of using the Mercantile Navy in time of war, he had not been neglecting it, and he had very valuable information as to the number and classes of vessels which might be dealt with for this purpose. Though they might be considered useful auxiliaries, no one could look on merchant ships in their present state as war vessels. The matter was undergoing careful consideration as to how they could be strengthened for war purposes, but he ventured to say this, that at the outbreak of war it would be impossible to find them serviceable for war purposes without considerable alteration. It was not desirable to rely on assistance from that source without being ready with a certain number of fast cruisers to take the sea. It was with that view that he had proposed to lay down these corvettes. He held that the present Admiralty had something like a shipbuilding policy, and when he was asked what it was he hoped it might be considered he had given a sufficient answer. The question was, how was he to deal with the Motion of his hon. Friend. He had the greatest confidence in the Constructor's department at the Admiralty. He could not accept the Motion, but he was prepared to agree to the appointment of a Committee such as sat in 1871, to consider whether, in view of the great development of modern weapons of offence, any material variation should be made in the type of ship which had been laid down during the last few years. He believed such a Committee would not seriously interfere with the business of the Admiralty, and would be able to conclude its labours within a reasonable time. In assenting to this Committee, however, he hoped he should not be considered to show the slightest want of confidence in his advisers, or any doubt as to the shipbuilding policy they had been pursuing; but in these days, when every fresh invention required almost a corresponding alteration in the plan of our ships, it seemed to him not unreasonable to accept all the assistance they could obtain, both outside and inside the Admiralty, as to this important question upon which the safety, honour, and dignity of the country mainly depended. He did not wish designs from outside to be submitted to this Committee; because as a ship progressed, the designs needed constant modification, and it was absolutely necessary that somebody should be responsible from beginning to end for the designs. Those submitted from outside could only be provisional and sketch designs, and it was necessary that the constructors of the Admiralty should be responsible for the design of a ship in all its stages of progression. Of course, they would be perfectly ready to receive suggestions. He hoped his hon. Friend would be satisfied with the undertaking he had given and not press his Motion.

said, that after the statement of the right, hon. Gentleman, he felt that his object would best be attained by the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, and upon the understanding that such a Committee would be appointed, he begged to withdraw his Motion.

said, before the Motion was withdrawn, he wished to express his gratification at hearing the very clear statement of policy made by the right hon. Gentleman, and especially his determination to maintain unimpaired the responsibility of the Department to Parliament, without the shield of a Royal Commission being interposed. With respect to the Committee which it was proposed to appoint, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that in appointing the Committee in 1871 the late Government distinctly refused to refer to it the general question of shipbuilding; but limited its inquiry to the policy of the Government in constructing vessels of certain specified classes. He trusted that the Committee about to be appointed would also be limited in its investigation. It would be most dangerous to call for the production of plans and designs from the general public, and leave their adoption practically to an irresponsible Committee.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Supply—Navy Estimates

SUPPLY— considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

£210,230, Coast Guard Services, &c.

said, he would like to have some information as to the control of that part of the Naval Reserve which consisted of the men in the Coastguard. Formerly the Coastguard was part of the Customs; but, on the Report of a Commission, the control of the Force was transferred to the Admiralty, but still the administration was a separate department outside the Admiralty itself. The result was, that as a Naval Force great defects were allowed to grow up in it. When he had the honour of being First Lord, all that was changed. The administration of the Coastguard, as part of the Fleet was brought directly under the control of the Admiralty, and the Force itself cleared of inefficient men, and it was arranged that they should be sent to sea one-half at a time under the command of an admiral or commodore, the result being that the Force became a far more effective one. What he now wished to know was why the present Admiralty had upset that arrangement, which had been made with the concurrence of the most experienced officers, and the old arrangement resorted to?

said, he did not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman should criticize the change made by the present Board of Admiralty; but, for his own part, he did not see any reason for the arrangement which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman, but that of saving the salary of the Comptroller of the Coastguard. One reason for removing the Naval Reserve outside the Admiralty was, that if he had not done so it would have been necessary to appoint another Naval Lord to the Board; but the chief reason was, that there was a slackness about the Naval Reserve; that there was no one to stimulate them; that there was a want of unity of management; and that there was no one person to look after them to see that they were doing their duty.

asked what course the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take this year with regard to sending the reserved ships to sea, whether they were to be sent to cruise generally, and under whose command they were to be placed?

said, he thought it desirable that these ships, which were sent out for a short time with inexperienced crews, should be joined to a practised squadron, and he had therefore given orders that they should join the Channel Squadron by two or three at a time. In the course of this month two ships would join the Channel Squadron, and when they had been forty days out would be replaced by two others.

wished to ask whether the Channel Squadron would continue to be commanded by the same admiral? He would also call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to his use of the expression "inexperienced crews." No doubt he meant that they were inexperienced in the sense of not acting together in ships; but they were not inexperienced as sailors, for they were, in fact, composed of the finest material in the Service. It was important that the public should know that these valuable vessels were not sent out undermanned or with inexperienced crews.

was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for calling his attention to the matter. What he meant was, that the seamen were not practised together on board their own ships, not that they were inexperienced sailors. He intended that the reserved ships thus sent out for practice should be entirely under the command of the admiral commanding the Channel Squadron. On the other point he might say that there was no intention to appoint another admiral. He thought that sending the Squadron round the coasts from time to time was a policy wisely favoured by successive Governments.

thought it might be gathered that the right hon. Gentleman intended this year that the men of the Squadron should have a considerable amount of exercise at sea as distinguished from harbour life.

pointed out that the harbour duties and exercises were of themselves exceedingly important and expressed a hope that the men would not be kept too much at sea.

asked what were the proposals of the Government with regard to the Coast Guard Naval Reserve? If the right hon. Gentleman wanted to keep the boys to a later age, he must hold out greater advantage than he now did.

said, that if a boy passed the standard required by the Admiralty, he ought to be as proficient as a boy who had passed two years in a training ship; and he did not think £25 was too large a sum to pay for boys from training ships.

Vote agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a sum, not exceeding £109,194, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Expenses of the several Scientific Departments of the Navy, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1877."

Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—( Mr. Rylands,)—put, and agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow;

Committee also report Progress; to sit again upon Wednesday.

Indian Legislation Bill—Bill 54 (Lord George Hamilton, Mr Attorney General)

Order For Committee Discharged Bill Withdrawn

in moving that the Order for the House to be put into a Committee on the Bill be read and discharged, said, it would perhaps be for the convenience of the House if he were now to state what course the Government intended to adopt with reference to this Bill. The only object of the Bill was to strengthen and confirm the powers of the Legislative Council of the Governor General of India. Since the Bill had been before the House certain doubts as to the position of the Council had arisen in India which would require further reference to, and communication with, the Indian Government before they could be finally settled. Pending the settlement of these matters it would not be proper to ask Parliament to increase the powers of the Legislative Council, and he would, therefore, move that the Order be discharged.

Motion agreed to.

Order discharged; Bill withdrawn.

Poor Law (Scotland) Bill (The Lord Advocate, Mr Secretary Cross)

Bill 130 Second Reading

Order for Second Reading read.

in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, in order to save time, he would suggest that any discussion that might be wished on the measure should be taken on the later stage. He would move its second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( The Lord Advocate.)

concurred in the objection, especially when the amount of opposition existing against it in Scotland was considered.

regretted to hear the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. He had lately come back from Scotland, and could testify that there was only one chorus of approbation of the conduct of the Government in proposing the Bill. The feeling was, that if they had only carried the clause providing for medical aid, that alone would have entitled the Government to the gratitude of the people of Scotland.

said, that without pronouncing any opinion for or against the Bill, he was sure there was not such a chorus in its favour as had been represented. He thought, moreover, that nothing whatever would be gained by reading the Bill a second time now and taking the discussion at a later stage. It was rather a slipshod way of conducting business. They had Scotch Business put down and deferred night after night, and then they were at last implored to pass Bills, even without discussion. That he regarded as anything but the right mode of conducting Scotch Business.

said, the questions which were raised in the Bill were matters which were much ventilated in Scotland. There was considerable difference of opinion and much discussion upon them. Therefore he thought that the House should have a fair opportunity of considering the measure.

said, he approved of the Bill in a general way, and should be glad to see it read a second time. Yet he must complain of the manner in which Scotch Business was treated by the Government. Scotch Members were treated badly by the last Government; but the present were even worse, inasmuch as they never could get discussions of Scotch Business except private Members Bills on Wednesdays. On such occasions as the present the Bills were always left over till 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning; and then it was said that if they were not allowed to pass without opposition, they would not be taken at all. The Bill was very much what it had been described to be by the hon. Baronet, and would not require much discussion till after being in Committee; but still, as it was a matter of great importance to the Scotch Members, they would like to say something about it, and he would consent to the second reading now if the Government would undertake to allow them to have a full discussion on going into Committee.

said, he had entered into an engagement that when Bills were opposed an opportunity should be given to hon. Gentlemen for having them discussed; but he had consulted the Lord Advocate in regard to this Bill, and they had agreed that it was an exception. There was no opposition to the principle of the Bill, and the only points on which discussion would take place were those of detail, and he assured them there would be ample opportunity for discussing these on a future occasion.

said, that so far as his constituency were concerned, they had no objection to the principle of the Bill, though they thought considerable alteration was required on the clauses. He thought they might take the second reading now.

in explanation, said, he did not object to the principle of the Bill, but to the time at which Scotch Business was brought forward.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter after One o'clock.