Page images
PDF
EPUB

was convinced, though the Government might be exposed to taunts and criticisms, that, upon the whole, under the circumstances in which they found themselves, they exercised a wise discretion -at all events an honest discretion-in endeavouring to put off this delicate, difficult, and important legislation to the next Session with the firm determination to take it up in the proper spirit at the very beginning of the Session. But the immediate question was with reference to the Bill before the House, and on that subject he could only say it was a Bill which proposed to meet what might be called an exigency, and as far as possible to provide for objects which had to be provided for at the present moment. It was, after all, a Bill which did not go further in principle than the Acts which Parliament passed a year or two ago, especially the Act of 1873. It followed the lines of the Act of 1873 which hon. Gentlemen opposite had the credit of passing, and which he believed to be a most valuable Act. It had been shown by the experience of the last year or two to be most effective in stopping some kinds of mischief, and it might be more so as time went on, should it be taken as the basis of legislation for giving greater powers to the officers of the Board of Trade. It might be said that this was entrusting great powers to irresponsible and untried men. His right hon. Friend when he announced that he would bring in this Bill made an apology to the House for asking for so much power. He said his reason for asking for a temporary measure only was that they were going to ask for powers which Parliament might have refused to grant to them in perpetuity. The Government admitted that they were assuming a very great responsibility, and that the President of the Board of Trade and his staff were taking on themselves a most difficult and important duty. But they trusted to the indulgence of Parliament and of the country and to the assistance of those who were able to aid them in this task which they had thought it right to undertake. If the Government were asked how far those who might be employed would be competent for the duty to be entrusted to them, they might, at all events, point to the success which had so far attended the working of the Act of 1873, and to the fact that the men employed had been

able to do a great deal of good work. They could say that the men employed under that Act had made comparatively few mistakes, for his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade had stated that out of 558 merchant ships which were stopped, 515 were found to be stopped rightly, while there were others which were still in question, and with regard to some 50 or 60 stopped for being improperly loaded, not one had been shown to have been stopped improperly. Therefore, the Government did say with some confidence that they would entrust such men as they could find to carry on this business with such instructions and superintendence as the Government could afford. But it was not only to the staff of the Board of Trade at present that they would look ; they would also look to others for aid. And here he might state that they had received from Lloyd's assurances of the most encouraging character; that they were ready to place their services at the disposal of the Government, and give what assistance they could in carrying the Act into effect. When the House got into Committee it might be necessary to consider whether any provisions should be made in order to guard against possible abuses of the power proposed to be given to the crew of objecting in certain cases to go to sea. Nobody wished to encourage anything in the nature of vexatious or frivolous complaints. Under the present law, that was a difficulty which would have to be met; and if it was thought necessary to introduce any words to meet the case of frivolous and vexatious complaints, the Government would be ready to deal with the matter. With regard to other points, he felt quite sure that the spirit which had animated the House in the discussion which had been held would still prevail. There was another subject on which he wished to make a remark. The Bill of the Government was confined to an important, but very narrow object. It related only to the power to stop unseaworthy ships going out of this country. Still, that went a good way, because by the term "unseaworthy ships' they did not mean ships only which had leaks or were of very bad materials; the words would apply to cases of overloading or improper loading. Therefore, in respect to deck cargoes, as regarded ships going out from this

country, the Board of Trade would have | difference. There were the questions of ample power to exercise all the authority deck cargoes and grain in bulk. As to necessary. But, undoubtedly, there was those matters it would be premature at another side to the question upon which that present moment to express the final stress had been laid and upon which the views of the Government upon proposals Bill did not touch, but which the hon. which might be made; but this he was Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Reed) prepared to say on behalf of the Governproposed to deal with. He alluded to ment, that they considered, looking to the questions of deck load and carriage the importance of those questions, the of grain in bulk, the question of load interest which they had excited, and the line, survey, and other points. There manner in which the hon. Member for was also the question of the imprison- Derby had conducted his campaign in ment of seamen. Now, he proposed to the matter, that it would be in accorddistinguish between those questions. ance with the feelings of the House and Some of them related to matters which just to the hon. Member, while it would would involve the House in long discus- not be disadvantageous generally, that sions on very intricate subjects, which, they should give a fair opportunity for in his opinion, would inevitably affect the discussion of those portions of the the progress of the measure. He would question. Unless they assented to some join, if he might venture to say so, his part of the Instruction proposed, the appeal to that of the hon. Member for hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. E. J. Derby that they should conduct their Reed) would be precluded in Committee discussions on this Bill in such a manner from submitting his clauses, and as they as to secure that that which they were de- did not desire to preclude those consideratermined on passing should pass quickly. tions they would be prepared to admit Therefore he would say, on the part of the an Instruction which would allow clauses Government, that they would deprecate upon those points of deck cargoes and the introduction into this measure of pro- grain in bulk to be discussed, excluding visions which would be likely to lead to on the other hand questions of load line questions of difficulty and complication. and survey, and provisions with regard If the door were opened to the questions to the imprisonment of seamen. But to raised by the notices, it would be diffi- avoid misconception of the views of the cult to close it against other debatable Government he must add that they were questions. Amongst those questions not prepared off-hand to adopt the sugwas that of the load line, and without gestions of the hon. Member for Pempronouncing an opinion, for he did not broke. Deck cargoes were a subject of feel himself competent to do so, as to the anxious consideration at the time to propriety of attempting to fix a load which the hon. Member for Derby had line, it was one which would lead to long referred, and the painful Report from discussions on points of very great diffi- which extracts had been read was then culty, and one which he should be ex- before Parliament; and it had ever since ceedingly sorry to see introduced into been a question which had from time to the question of the Bill upon the present time attracted public attention. occasion. He observed that, in reality, could not at that moment remember upon what was proposed would take the shape what ground the repeal of the Act took of leaving it to the discretion of some place in 1854; but his impression was Commission or public Department to fix a that the provisions were repealed beload line, and when they looked at the cause they were found to be unworkable. proposals that were made, at their diver- The hon. Member for Derby said prosity, at the fact that the hon. Member visions had been made which had for Derby did not propose that his Bill checked, and almost extinguished, the should take effect before the 1st of abuse of grain cargoes in the Atlantic January next, and at all the circum- trade, and he said we ought to legislate stances, he thought there would be a in the same direction, because those progeneral concurrence of opinion on the visions had been attended with such part of a majority of the House that it excellent results. But did not hon. would be unwise to complicate their pro- Members at once perceive the difference ceedings by introducing the load line between the two cases? The legislation question. With regard to other ques- to which the hon. Member alluded was tions he would admit there was some adopted at the port of export and by the

He

country of export; and it was the action | sired was that the question should be as of the exporting country which must be fairly, as fully, and as frankly discussed called into operation in order to deal as possible. They were prepared to give with those evils. Nothing could be more their best energies and their best time to creditable than the course that had the consideration of it; and from the been taken in the matter by the Canadian feeling of the House he thought they Government and the great body of under- might close the Session with a measure writers of New York, and they had had which, though far from complete, would their reward, for he had just been told be really a step forward, and with that since those regulations as to ship- pledges given of a material character for ping grain in bulk came into force the a thorough dealing with, and a sifting of, rate of insurance on grain cargoes from the question in the next Session of ParSan Francisco to this country had fallen liament. There was only one other point from five guineas to 458. a-ton, showing to which he wished to allude-he meant where action was taken by those who the Amendment of which Notice had were interested the truth of the obser- been given by the hon. and learned vation of the hon. Member for Derby, Member for Durham (Mr. Herschell). that proper legislation and provisions It was an Amendment which was strictly would add to the wealth of the country, germane to the purposes of the Bill, and as well as to the safety of our seamen. one which the Government would have But that action, as he had said, had been been willing to adopt if their Merchant taken by the exporting country; and Shipping Bill had proceeded. That they had a much more difficult and deli- Amendment made it penal for any shipcate task to deal with. How were they to owner or any other person to send, or regulate grain cargoes in this country? take part in sending, an unseaworthy They could not by legislation here en- ship to sea. They heard, in the Answer sure the adoption of proper regulations given to the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. for shipping grain at Odessa. [Mr. Evelyn Ashley) yesterday, that in one PLIMSOLL: Yes.] They might resolve respect the present law had been ineffecto punish those who had infringed such tive; and they believed that the Amendregulations when they came to this coun- ment of the hon. and learned Member try; but were they to touch the ship for Durham would meet the difficulty. which came across, or the ship that did At all events, they were prepared to not? If the ship came across with safety accept it; and they were grateful to the it would be found very hard and difficult hon. and learned Member for the assistto punish the man who had brought his ance he had lent them in the matter. ship over in safety; and if they sought to That was the position in which they punish the man whose ship had been lost, stood. They regretted exceedingly that where were they to get the evidence? they had not been able to go on with They would find that they were entering more complete legislation that year. But upon a most delicate and difficult task; he must say for himself that he should and although he did not say the subject prefer the matter standing over to next was not worthy of consideration, or that year to attempting to pass a complete they were not prepared to entertain and Bill and failing to do so; for if they discuss proposals which might be made passed a half-measure they would be by Gentlemen whose authority was very stopped from taking it up again, as it great in matters of the kind, he guarded would be held to have been disposed of himself and the Government against its in 1875. He believed they would come being supposed that they were insensible to the consideration of the matter next to the difficulties of the question, or that year with enlarged experience and inthey were prepared to adopt the pro- creased determination to grapple with posals which might be made. But they that difficult subject; and he believed would consider them. They did not that the small measure they were asking wish to shut them out. Unfortunately, the House to adopt on the present occahe did not hear the Notice given by the sion would be of use not only in averthon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rath- ing some amount of misery and suffering bone), but he knew he had paid great during the coming winter, but as formattention to the subject, and his sugges- ing a foundation for future legislation. tion might afford some solution of the difficulty. All that the Government de

MR. A. PEEL said, he should not have taken any part in the debate had

he not been Secretary to the Board of Trade when the Acts of 1871, 1872, and 1873 were passed, which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer now proposed to supplement by this temporary measure. He agreed with almost everything which had been said by the right hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, he should have found it difficult to disagree, because the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was couched in such general terms that he did not see the immediate application of it to the question now before the House. It was true that the right hon. Gentleman said the root of the evil was insurance; but they had agreed to defer that question until next Session, and they had now to deal with a specific remedy for a specific evil. He regretted that they were driven into a corner by the action of the Government, and had not sufficient elbowroom to go into the question fairly, as they might have done if the original Bill of the Government had been proceeded with, for they might have introduced Amendments which would have made it a satisfactory measure, and should not have run the risk which they had since incurred by dealing with a vital and important question in a state of excitement which was not conducive to its proper settlement. He wished to remind the House that the Act of 1873, which repealed former Acts and provisions, was an important one, as it comprised provisions dealing with nearly everything which could be found wrong in a ship, and amongst other things it enabled seamen on a charge of desertion to obtain compensation for any unnecessary detention, and it gave the Board of Trade power to stop ships for a variety of reasons, amongst them being over or improper loading. A weak point, however, was found in that Act. The Board of Trade had to act through the report of a surveyor, who was not competent to stop a ship, and the consequence was that it frequently incurred odium, if not ridicule, because in the interval between a report being sent by the surveyor and an order being made to stop the vessel to which it referred, the ship had sailed. The Government in proposing to remedy that defect had done a very good work. He was much gratified at the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) towards the Bill, but he expected nothing else, for he would

He

remind the House that that hon. Member had, at a trades union meeting in the country, stated that he felt satisfied with the action of the Board of Trade in stopping vessels which had been overloaded. The hon. Member claimed that there had been a wonderful decrease in overloading since he had taken the matter in hand, and he certainly was entitled to make that observation. (Mr. A. Peel) hoped the Bill would be read a second time; but he also thought some of the Amendments upon the Notice Paper might be usefully introduced. The mere duration of the Act for a year was in itself no answer to the complaints of the shipping interest: but the evils were admitted, and he thought the Government might even go further than they had ventured to do. In regard to deck cargoes and the Act of 1839, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not stated that it was only passed for a year, and that it was made permanent in 1840. This Bill was to meet an emergency. They would not probably come together again till the winter was well through, and without harassing the shipping interest, he thought it would be possible, following the course taken in 1839, to pass a stringent measure which would have the effect of preventing during the winter the acknowledged evils at present arising in the North Atlantic, especially from deck cargoes. He did not wish to speak without book on the question; but, in the Appendix to the Report of the Royal Commission the evidence of Mr. Fry, whose experience of the North Atlantic trade extended over 30 years, was quoted, to the effect that during the season of 1872, 62 large vessels sailing between the St. Lawrence and Great Britain were totally lost, and he said he was convinced that fully three-fourths of the losses of wood-laden ships in the North Atlantic trade were owing, directly or indirectly, to the practice of carrying deck cargoes. He did not wish to shut his eyes to the difficulties of legislating for deck loads, and there was much force in the inquiry of the right hon. Gentleman as to how they could punish a man whose ship had arrived in safety. But, knowing that great loss of life did result from the practice, it would be right to insist upon proper precautions. He thought, therefore, they could legislate now to prevent deck loading, if they

[ocr errors]

It was

were convinced that a great loss of life | every shipmaster preparing his ship for took place in consequence of it. Under the carriage of corn should give notice the Bill a large number of surveyors to the superintendent or port warden, would have to be appointed all over the who took care that the dividing planks country. They would be entrusted with were properly fitted, and satisfied himvery difficult and responsible duties, and self that the timber was properly if he referred to an ominous clause in seasoned and of a right description. the Act of 1872, which imposed a penalty These precautions were the result of a upon accepting bribes, it was only to strict law, and therefore, in legislating point to the danger of appointing as on on this subject on the spur of the surveyors men with a small salary, who moment, and in regard to cargoes shipped would be open to temptation; while, on all over the world, they must not be too the other hand, they could only obtain hopeful that their legislation would be experienced surveyors by paying them all at once successful. No vessel leaving at a high rate for their services. He a Canadian port was allowed to have thought that the Bill would, on the more than a certain quantity of grain whole, be satisfactory, and while he ad- without a bulkhead. These facts were mitted that a much more stringent mea- ascertained and recorded by the harbour sure than the present one would harass master. The House, however, must not an important and increasing trade, still be too sanguine in expecting the same if the Government could see their way to results in legislating for cargoes shipped deal with deck loading in such a manner from ports all over the world. as would meet the difficulties during the difficult to regulate the loading of grain ensuing winter, he felt sure that they ships from Russia, Turkey, and Egypt, would still further satisfy the expecta- for example, because our laws were intions of the country. operative in foreign ports. We could only proceed against those who had broken the law when they arrived at home, and we could merely empower our Custom House officers to initiate a prosecution. If, however, a ship arrived safely there would be great reluctance on the part of a jury to convict, and the success of the voyage would go a great way towards exculpating the shipowner. The House should remember that this was a trade on which millions of money depended, and if any restrictions were placed upon the importation of grain with the view of regulating it, they would have as loud an outcry against the arrival of ships bearing the people's food being impeded and restrained as they now had against overloading. Allusion had frequently been made to the number of ships that had passed off Lloyd's Register, and which, it was said, were to be numbered by thousands. The hon. Member for Derby spoke of these ships as having lost their class, and as being unclassed and unseaworthy. But many of these ships which passed off Lloyd's Register obtained classification from other societies; and it was to be presumed they only obtained such classification after survey. He would not vouch for the calculation; but he had heard it said that 60 per cent were registered in the books of the German Lloyd's and in other foreign registries, in every one of which

LORD ESLINGTON said, he must express his regret that in the calm and lucid statement of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) he had not given utterance to some expression of regret for the language he had used with reference to the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Bates.) "It was never too late to mend," and a blow having been inflicted which affected that hon. Gentleman's reputation in the most cruel manner, he would still hope that the hon. Member for Derby would offer some expression of his regret to the hon. Member for Plymouth. He wished to make a few remarks as to the course indicated by the Government, and to make some remarks as to the regulations which prevailed in the Dominion of Canada reÎative to the loading of grain ships, and the carrying of timber deck loads. He did not wish to check the impulse of the House to legislate in that direction, but the question was not without difficulty, and he would remind the House that at Montreal, the principal port for the exportation of grain, the conduct of the shipping was under the absolute superintendence of a gentleman who brought 50 years' experience to the work, and who had obtained an amount of public confidence which could hardly be expected to be given to the officers of the Board of Trade. The law there was that

« PreviousContinue »