Skip to main content

Merchant Shipping Bill—Bill 144

Volume 229: debated on Friday 26 May 1876

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

( Sir Charles Adderley, Mr. Edward Stanhope.)

Third Reading

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—( Sir Charles Adderley.)

said, that before the Bill was read a third time it would be well if some Member of the Government would state whether there was any foundation for the suggestion which recently was made by the leading journal—namely, that since the passing of the Dominion Act ships registered in Canada were no longer "British" ship, but only "Colonial" ships, and could not be dealt with by Imperial legislation. He was under the impression that the Dominion Act made no difference in the relations between this country and the North American Provinces, to which responsible government had been given many years before, but only regulated the new relations inter se. A "British ship" was the creation of the British Parliament, and whatever might be the powers respecting them of colonial Parliaments while those ships were in colonial waters, he conceived that nothing had been done by implication to repeal the Act of 1854, which regulated the registry of, and property in British ships. The port of registry was immaterial, as registry might be transferred from one to another British dominion at any time.

said, it was extraordinary that any one pretending to criticize this Bill should suppose that the Dominion Act of 1867 excluded Canada from the operation of Imperial Acts or made Canadian ships any other than British ships. The Act of 1867 had two Schedules of subjects of legislation. The first enumerated the subjects with which the Dominion Parliament might deal exclusively of the provincial Legislatures; while the second enumerated the subjects with which the provincial Legislatures might deal, exclusively of the Dominion Parliament. But neither excluded Imperial legislation. The Queen in Council could allow Colonial Acts to repeal Imperial, but Colonial laws inconsistent with Imperial were invalid. These were questions of policies, not of legislation right. Imperial Acts bound Canadian subjects as much as all other British subjects. It was a total mistake to suppose that the Act of 1867 or 1869 in any way altered the relation of Canadian subjects to the Imperial Parliament. A Canadian ship was a British ship registered in Canada, and there was no distinction between the British character of both. He was very glad his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had drawn attention to the mistake that had been made in the criticism to which he had referred. The Bill which the House was now asked to read a third time had distinctly and rightly borne in view the existing state of the law and the relations between Canadian and all other British subjects.

hoped that when the Bill got into the House of Lords, provision would be made for allowing ships trading from British ports to the Baltic to carry deck-loads of agricultural machinery during the summer months—say from April to October.

thought the case of Canada had been amply considered, and thanked the Government for a good, sound, common-sense measure, which he hoped would pass unanimously.

also thanked the Government for the measure, and said that on the whole the Government had succeeded in holding the balance between conflicting interests very fairly. The Government had also succeeded in carrying through the House a measure which would be a great benefit to the shipping interest and to those who wished to carry on their business in an honest, legitimate, safe, and secure manner; and at the same time it would afford to the sailors all the protection which both the House and the public required for them, and which they had a right to expect.

also offered his congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman at the conclusion of his labours. The Bill as it stood carried out the principle of the responsibility of the shipowners as far as it was practicable to do so. He hoped it would be effective in preventing the evils hitherto complained of in regard to unseaworthy vessels. It must not, however, be expected that all losses at sea would be put an end to. By far the greatest number of losses arose from causes on which neither this Bill nor any other that could be devised would have any effect, from perils of the sea and from the negligence of officers and seamen navigating them. He was not so completely wedded to the principle of this Bill that if it failed to produce a good result, he would not be prepared to go further in the direction aimed at by the hon. Member for Derby; but he, at least, hoped that a fair trial would be given to the measure, and that for a time agitation on the subject would cease. The shipping trade had now for some years been the subject of this agitation, and it was only fair that it should now be left at rest for a time, and that every effort should be made fairly to put the Bill in operation. He believed that if fairly worked, the Bill would prevent the sailing of vessels in an unseaworthy state. He must enter his protest against that part of the Bill which extended the powers of the Board of Trade to foreign vessels, he considered that a dangerous precedent was made thereby. The clause which imposed a penalty on vessels entering our ports and which had loaded according to the laws of their own country appeared to him indefensible, and was equally opposed to International Law and to our treaty engagements. He hoped that the great lawyers in the Upper House would direct their attention to this point. He took this opportunity of saying that he had on this account mainly voted with the Government, and against the Party with whom he acted upon the last Amendment on Report—namely, that which omitted the exception in favour of three feet of deals and battens from the prohibition against deck cargoes. He agreed in principle with what had been said by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract as to the right of our Legislature to legislate for Canadian vessels; but he considered it was very inexpedient to bring our legislation into conflict with the Canadian legislation. He also recollected that the timber trade was mainly carried on by foreign and Canadian vessels; in attempting, therefore, to impose regulations upon them, it was expedient to be very careful, however desirable it might appear to make such regulations as regards our own vessels, he thought it was unwise to do so as against foreign and colonial ships without the consent of their Governments. He could not but fear that what we had done would bring us into difficulty both with foreign Governments and with the Canadian Legislature. He hoped, therefore, that this question would be reviewed in the Upper House, and would be discussed with reference to the important international points which it raised.

said, his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was prevented from speaking again, and perhaps it was fortunate for him that he had been spared his blushes. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) therefore begged in the name of his right hon. Friend and the Government, to say how sensible they were of the kindness expressed on the occasion, and of the general kindness with which the Bill had been treated during the long and often animated discussions in Committee. He was sure his right hon. Friend would have reason to congratulate himself in having steered the Bill at last to this point. All he could say was that the Government had done their best honestly to make the Bill a good one, and, if they had been ready to accept suggestions from other quarters, it should be borne in mind that they had done so on their own responsibility; and the responsibility for the measure as it was now about to pass rested with the Government. They hoped there would be a general disposition to give a fair trial to the measure, and to the Board of Trade in working it; and he could assure the House that there would be no want of honesty and zeal in endeavouring to give effect to the Bill in accordance with the views of those who had passed it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time; Verbal Amendment made:—Bill passed.