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Merchant Shipping Bill—Bill 49

Volume 229: debated on Monday 8 May 1876

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(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 New Clauses (Restriction on power of arrest without warrant) and (Official logs), by leave, withdrawn.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.]