§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. PLIMSOLL
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, that during the last 25 years there had been legislation for the benefit of those who were engaged in almost every branch of industry, except that of shipping, although upwards of 738,000 persons were engaged in it; and they might as well have been the inhabitants of any other country for the care that had been taken of them. The wages of workmen on land, in case of bankruptcy, were as safe as a landlord's rent; but it was not so with reference to workmen on the 663 seas. A ship had recently come home, after an 18 months' voyage, and the owner having become bankrupt the mortgagee had taken the ship and her earnings, leaving the crew without their wages or redress, although a sum of £50 was coming to each of the men. The law which punished workmen for leaving their employment without leave by imprisonment had been repealed; but only last week the magistrates of North Shields committed three men to gaol for 14 days, because they refused to go to sea in the David Malcolm, which the logbook showed was making from four to five inches of water per hour; and those men were in gaol now. In order to ensure the safety of a dwelling-house, the Building Act required that the plans should first be approved by the district surveyor; but, in the case of a ship, the builders might use inferior material in its construction, and thereby imperil the lives of the crew, without interference on the part of the authorities. We limited the load of an omnibus simply to consult the convenience of the passengers, but we refused to limit the load of a ship, although, in the latter instance, lives were immediately in jeopardy. Formerly an owner anxiously awaited the arrival of his vessel, especially if her voyage was longer than usual; but since the existence of marine insurance his anxiety was greatly diminished, and he frequently reaped a pecuniary advantage from the loss of the ship. He held in his hand a minified copy of the wreck chart, which showed that, during the past year, 2,589 vessels had been lost; and in their Report for the preceding year the Board of Trade stated that the number of vessels employed in the regular carrying trade that had suffered wreck or casualty was 2,000, and that half of this number represented unseaworthy and overladen vessels, of the collier class. The National Life Boat Institution, in their quarterly journal for November, 1870, again called attention to the rotten state of many of the ships, about 20 years old, that were wrecked every year, and remarked that, in too many instances, when such vessels got ashore, the crews perished before the life boat could possibly reach them. On our own coasts alone some 3,053 lives had been lost in the course of the three years ending December, 1868, being an annual average of about 664 1,018. But in accurately measuring the extent of the loss of life, the number of persons saved by life boats and other voluntary agencies must be included. In one year alone, 5,121 men had been saved, so that the loss of life should be reckoned at 6,000 to 7,000 but for those agencies. Such was the condition of some of the vessels employed on the East Coast that the ordinary societies refused to insure them; and, under those circumstances, the owners formed themselves into a mutual insurance club, in order to insure each other against the loss of their vessels. While conversing with a shipowner in New-castle-upon-Tyne, he ascertained that one club of this class called the "Ocean" stopped payment, after having been called upon to contribute 20 per cent premium for one year and 24 in the next, showing that the vessels in these clubs had only about four years of life left in them at the time they were insured. He also learned that the shareholders in the Shields Marine Club had to pay no less than 30 per cent for the losses of a single year. All these existing evils he asked the House to remedy. Several of the causes of disaster among shipping were so patent that they might at once be considered with a view to immediate legislation, while some of the causes would doubtless require special knowledge, such as qualified men might give. A great number of vessels were lost every year simply from rot; they were so utterly bad that the sails might be taken, doubled in the hands, and rent; he had seen a mast of 16 inches in diameter which, when sawn asunder, was found to contain only four inches of sound wood, and the rest was so soft that a dinner knife could be driven into it up to the handle. He could take hon. Members to the Pool below London Bridge and point out a dozen ships into whose masts the ferule of an umbrella could be driven up to the umbrella itself; and where they had great difficulty in preventing the men from shovelling up the bilge planks when they shovelled up the coal. Surely, with such facts as these in its possession, the House was competent to decide whether such vessels should be allowed to go to sea in a laden state without being repaired? The House could have no hesitation in at once pronouncing upon that issue. Another cause of disaster was overloading, and he was 665 prepared to say that several vessels were overladen with the positive design that they should sink in the course of their voyages. ["Oh, oh!"] It was quite true, and he could substantiate the statement. Where this design did not exist the overloading was carried on to such an extent as to render the vessel practically unseaworthy. The House would, therefore, experience no difficulty in arriving at a decision on that issue also. With regard to excessive insurance, he mentioned several cases in which vessels, having previously been insured for sums beyond their actual value, were lost, and brought pecuniary advantage to the owners. In one case, which came before the Lord Mayor last year, the owner of a ship confessed he had only given £300 for a ship, whereas he had actually insured it for £1,000. Was it not an insult to common sense to suppose that the owner of that ship wished it to make its voyage in safety? In North Shields, too, only a fortnight ago, an owner confessed in a Court of Law that he had insured for £800 a vessel which he expected would not sell for £400; and this confession was made on the charge that he had intended the vessel's destruction. In another case, an owner having paid £7,500 for a vessel, £5,000 of the purchase money being left on mortgage, sent in a proposal to Lloyd's to insure it for five-sixths of what he declared its value to be—namely, £13,000. In the last case the rate of premium was eight guineas per cent per annum, and the underwriters were induced, by false representations, to accept the payment of 400 guineas per annum more than they would have taken had they known the facts of the case. People who were in business expected to make a profit from their outlay, but how could a profit be gained in this instance, except by the actual foundering of the ship, which took place within the year, involving the loss of 23 lives? The two principles on which this measure rested were, to render a survey of unclassed ships compulsory, and to prohibit the overloading of ships that were to be sent to sea. Both these principles were indicated in a memorial to the Board of Trade adopted by the Association of Chambers of Commerce at a meeting held in the Westminster Palace Hotel last year. Considering the number of lives jeopardized, it was deeply to be regretted that vessels, unlike houses, 666 should be allowed not only to be badly constructed, but to be lengthened or altered in any other way, without proper regard being had to the relative strength of the unaltered portions of the vessel. In support of his proposal to inspect ships he mentioned the case of a vessel seven breadths in length being cut in half, and 40 feet being put in the middle, thus increasing its length from seven breadths to nine and a half breadths; and this was done without the proper addition of bulkheads, knees, and other strengthening work. Another source of disaster was bad stowage, which might be easily ascertained. Many ships were sent to sea very inadequately manned. He had a letter in his hand telling him that a screw steamer 1,500 tons register left Liverpool on a voyage to the East with only eight deck hands on board. That would be all very well in fine weather; but it would be fatal if the weather were rough. Another such source was deficient engine power, which also was most disastrous in bad weather. These were subjects which might be submitted to Committees in the progress of the Session; but he now directed attention to matters with a view to preventing the overloading of ships and the sending of unworthy ships to sea. The Chambers of Commerce in nearly all the great towns had adopted similar resolutions, and all of them asked the Government to do that which he now asked the Government and the House to do. But the most signal confirmation of the justice and the propriety of the proposals which he submitted to the House was contained in a communication to The Shipping Gazette, from Mr. W. C. Rundell, a man of considerable experience and knowledge in the port of Liverpool. He said—Mr. Plimsoll's proposal has met with a large amount of the support of the shipowners of this town. The committee of the Shipowners' Association have unanimously supported this—the enforcement of a load-line—part of the Bill, as they consider that while this restriction on the loading of shipping will not affect those who load their vessels properly, it will act as a check on others who do not, and will considerably reduce the amount of insurance.Mr. Rundell was the secretary of the Liverpool body of underwriters, and the Liverpool shipowners had supported the passing of the Bill. Besides this, there was almost unanimity in the Press. During the last month he (Mr. Plimsoll) addressed an assemblage in the Free 667 Trade Hall in Manchester, and he had since received no less than 31 newspapers, containing leading articles on the subject. These came from Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Derby, Liverpool, Newcastle, Devonport, Bristol, and several other places; but of the whole 31 only two deprecated a change in the matter, and all the rest expressed themselves in unqualified terms of approval of the proposals of the Bill—that ships requiring repairs should be repaired, and that ships should not be overloaded. Some people thought it was not the duty of the Government to see to these matters, but that it was the duty of the insurers or underwriters; but there could not be a greater mistake than that. There were at least four cardinal differences or points of contrast between insuring a house and insuring a ship. He would give as an illustration the case of an insurance effected at Lloyd's in January, 1868; for £10,000 upon goods to be shipped in India for England. The goods in question were put into eight ships, and the number of people who underwrote that policy—that was, who accepted a portion of the risk—were 34 who engaged for £200 each, 16 for £150 each, and eight for £100 each; and, as eight ships were employed, in dividing the risk among these different persons it followed that no individual underwriter was interested to a larger amount than £25 in any single ship. How, then, could they expect people who were so little interested to take the trouble of inquiring into the seaworthiness of the vessels, or, in case of a disaster, to dispute by costly litigation their liability to the claim made upon them? Another policy was for a £50,000 cargo from Bombay to any port of the United Kingdom. In that case 53 persons underwrote for £500, 25 for £400, 11 for £300, 4 for £250, and 11 for £200 each; but as five ships had been employed to bring home the freight, the highest claim of any one underwriter was too small a sum to give him an interest of £100. From a full knowledge of the whole matter, extending over a long time, he was sure that it would be more reasonable to ask the first gentleman they met in the streets to institute an inquiry into a case of the presumed unseaworthiness of a ship than to ask an underwriter, because any banker or trader could do it without raising a suspicion as 668 to his motives or damaging his business prospects; whereas the underwriter who did so would expose his conduct to misconstruction, and forfeit all his chances of doing business in future. The divergences in different load-lines were made very much of by those who opposed his views, and the difficulties attending his proposal were said to be so great that it could not be carried out. He granted the difficulty, but denied that it was insuperable, and asked what good work had ever been done that was not difficult. What he wanted to do was not to hamper the honest shipowner who wished to load his ships so that they might make their voyages in safety, but to meet the case of those—not so few in number, he was sorry to say, as some hon. Gentlemen supposed—who loaded a ship with the definite purpose that the load should sink the ship. The real practical difficulty was not in fixing upon a proper load-line so much as that those men were resolutely bent on shirking any such line at all, with the view of loading their ships just as they pleased. In insuring a house the policyholder was comparatively weak and the insurance office strong; whereas in the case of ships the party insuring was frequently much stronger than the underwriter. The man insuring a house must do something which involved imminent risk of detection or exposed the lives of his own family before he could cheat the insurance office; but the man who insured an unseaworthy ship need do nothing. Doing nothing was the essence of the offence. He had nothing to do but to neglect the ship, and she would inevitably sink to the bottom. Again, if a house was burnt down and there was suspicion of fraud, the witnesses were generally on the spot, and could easily be examined; whereas, when a ship was lost the witnesses might all be at the bottom of the sea, or, if saved, be at the other end of the world. There was no analogy, therefore, between the two cases, and it would be more reasonable to expect a stranger to investigate a particular case of shipwreck than an individual underwriter. The remedy he proposed was a compulsory survey of unclassed ships. He insisted, on the imperative necessity of having ships that had run out all their various grades of classification properly surveyed before they were allowed to go to sea with 669 valuable lives on board, and also of putting some restraint on the homicidal cupidity of those who overloaded ships. All shipowners were not guilty of those practices; the great majority, indeed, loaded their ships with due regard to safety, and did their best to keep them afloat. The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Elliot) had a large number of ships between the Tyne and Thames since 1859, and these vessels had been running rapidly backwards and forwards ever since. In the case of those vessels, though the voyage was a dangerous one, and they were at sea three-fourths of the year, there had been no casualties and no lives lost in the whole period of 12 years, because they were never over loaded, were well repaired, and properly looked after. If the same treatment were applied to other vessels they would have similar good results. Indeed, with seaworthy ships and no overloading, they might travel by water with as perfect safety and even greater than by railway. He could give the House another fact, which was still more encouraging. In 1860 the firm of Anthony Gibbs and Co. entered into a contract with the Peruvian Government for guano. At first the casualties among their ships were frequent, owing to the absence of any proper system of survey; but at length Mr. Stubbs, the head of the firm at Lima, made an arrangement with the Custom House officers of that port not to issue clearance papers to the captain of any ship, unless he produced a certificate from their surveyor to the effect that the ship was not overloaded. Now, what was the result? Before the introduction of that rule the casualties averaged two per week, though the number of vessels loaded per annum was less than 400; but after the rule had come into force, during the four years that came under the observation of his informant, living at Callao, not a single one of the ships foundered, and the average even of trifling casualties was only 2½ per cent. The arguments in favour of the Bill being so irresistible, what were the objections to it? He would quote those that were advanced last year by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) whose duty it then was to reply to him on the part of the Government. The first objection was, that to interfere in the way he proposed would destroy the responsibility of the 670 owners of vessels. He would reply that at the present moment no such responsibility existed. Except in the case of the Sea Queen, it would be found that official inquiry had never followed the loss of any merchant vessel. The second objection was, that by rendering compulsory the survey of unclassed ships only, they would recognize private institutions—as Lloyd's. Certainly it would be equivalent to the recognition of private enterprize, and it seemed to him that the State ought to be glad to recognize it wherever it was of so beneficial a character, and ought to rejoice to know that half the task of providing for the safety of our sailors was already accomplished. The third objection was, that it would require an army of surveyors. Now, 27,000 vessels were registered in English ports, of which 13,000 were in Lloyd's book, and were annually surveyed, the work being done by 39 surveyors, who gave the whole of their time to it, assisted by 16 who were partially employed. If they were to make the necessary deductions for passenger vessels, the mail boats, the Inman, Cunard, and Peninsular and Oriental boats, and the ships built during the last five years, all of which would not require to be surveyed, he found that the whole number of surveyors that would be necessary to carry out the Bill was 17, and he had been told by good authorities that even that estimate was too high. The next objection was, that it would cost an immense sum annually—about £500,000. Lloyd's Committee for registering ships was started without capital, adopting a scale of fees which should make their operations self-supporting; and both owners and builders of ships were glad to have their ships surveyed and classed at Lloyd's. The business of the registering committee succeeded so well and the fees came in so fast that the salaries were raised all round; and still in one year the society had a large surplus that was now in the bank, being literally at a loss what to do with the money, because they had no proprietary and no subscribed capital. He did not ask the Government to do gratuitously for the imprudent shipowner what the prudent one paid to have done for him; and his system, he believed, could be made not only to pay for itself, but to yield a large balance to be handed over to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. 671 The last objection was, that the Bill would be an undue interference with the rights of individuals.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, the hon. Gentleman was mistaken. He never denied the right of Parliament to interfere, as it did in the case of mines; he only questioned the expediency of interference.
§ MR. PLIMSOLL
Well, at any rate the objection had been adduced, and therefore he desired to point out that, since the State claimed the right to supervise the erection of houses, the arrangements in manufactories, the ventilation and safety of mines, and a thousand other departments of private enterprize, there could be no valid reason why it should leave the lives of our sailors to the mercy of mercenary and reckless shipowners. There could be neither reason nor justice in allowing a man at Hull or Newcastle to buy a ship so rotten that out of a diameter of 16 inches only four were sound wood—so rotten that the sails split at the first breath of a gale; so rotten, that you could drive a table knife up to the handle in its hull, or the end of your umbrella in the planks. There was neither reason nor justice in permitting to buy a worn-out ship at the rate of 4s. a ton—whereas the price of a new ship was from £10 to £14 a ton—and then allowing to tar it over and to send it to sea in spite of the earnest remonstrances of its former owner, until it foundered with the lives of all the men who had been cajoled on board. But more than that, a vessel might be a stout one, but after the crew had signed the articles the owner might so overload it as to leave a freeboard of only 20 inches instead of five feet. Was it just that the crew should, nevertheless, be compelled by law to put to sea in her, or, if they refused, be liable to imprisonment by a magistrate? Yet, when Parliament was asked to devote a little of its time to delivering from death so useful and deserving a class of our population, they were told by a Member of the Government that they must not presume to check the homicidal cupidity of such shipowners, because it would be an undue interference with private rights. He maintained that it was not an undue interference, on the contrary, that it was long overdue; and it was a shame, and a disgrace and reproach to the Liberal party that, after 40 years 672 of predominance and power, this thing yet remained to be done. Out-of-doors one might find everybody wishing him God speed in his present efforts; but when he came into quarters nearer home there were people who sought to stifle inquiry and to avoid change. He could not, however, make his appeal to the Liberal party exclusively; indeed, he had been told by a working man at Manchester that all the measures that had been passed for the social improvement of the people were owing to the Conservatives. He would ask the good and just men on both sides of the House alike to give their support to this Bill. If they rejected it, or even postponed it for a year, they knew, on the authority of the Board of Trade, that some 500 or 600 lives would be lost. On the other hand, if they now adopted his proposal, the storms of winter might return, but our brave sailors, in sound and seaworthy ships, would be able to battle successfully with the tempest that would otherwise have overwhelmed them in death; and, when they made the desired port in safety, they would accord to that House the blessing of those who had been ready to perish. The duty of visiting the widow and the fatherless was enjoined by Divine authority; but he hoped the House would perform the higher, the nobler, and still more sacred duty of saving the wives and children of our English sailors from the sad fate that now often befell them.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
, in seconding the Motion, said, he did so on perhaps even broader grounds than those urged by the hon. Member for Derby who brought if forward. He maintained the necessity of saving human life whenever and wherever it was in danger. If mines, buildings, and even cabs required competent supervision, it was ten times as necessary in a case like the present. The fact that some vessels which had been condemned had made their voyages in safety proved nothing against the general argument. If, as practical men, they took the wreck chart and went over the whole North and North-East Coast of England, they could have no doubt whatever that it was high time something was done to save the lives of those who navigated those waters. He knew the dangers of that coast, and that it was because ships were unclassed and their seaworthiness not looked into that so 673 many of those afflicting casualties occurred. That was not a question of shipowners or shipmasters, since persons in such positions might do pretty well as they pleased about such ships; but of the safety of the working sailor, who was now obliged, under pain of imprisonment, to go to sea in a vessel which he perhaps, subsequently to his having signed articles, discovered to be totally unseaworthy. That was the state of the law and of the fact; and he contended that there ought to be some person in authority whose duty it was to survey ships and see that they were in proper condition before they went to sea. He most cordially supported the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Plimsoll.)
MR. EUSTACE SMITH
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time upon that day six months, said, his object was not to deny that something ought to be done, or that ships sometimes went to sea in an improper condition or overloaded; but to show that the means proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Plimsoll) were totally unsuited to the purpose he had in view. That was not a question of police regulation or of sanitary law. The point which he wished to bring before the House was this—that any man who, either through negligence or an sea undue desire for gain, sent a ship to in an unseaworthy condition, or anyone who loaded to such an extent as to render a ship unseaworthy when loaded, was committing a crime before God and man. That was a matter that ought to be dealt with by the criminal law of the country. It was a reproach to that law if it was unable promptly and effectually to punish, such an offence, and the sooner it was altered the better. He objected, however, to handing over the inspection of these matters to a number of irresponsible surveyors, and leaving them to give the shipowner a bill of indemnity under which he might commit an offence against the law. If this Bill should pass into law, the logical thing for the hon. Member to do next Session would be to bring in a Bill for the protection of life on shore, the Preamble of which should state that, whereas it was expedient to provide for the greater security of the lives of men employed on shore, and whereas many crimes were 674 committed, be it enacted that no man shall leave his house after dark unless he can get a certificate of good character from the Zoological Society in Regent's Park, the Horticultural Society in South Kensington, or the policeman round the corner; but that if he obtained a certificate from two societies having no legal status in this country, he might do as he liked. That Bill would violate the first principles of English law by putting the innocent in the same position as the guilty, for the hon. Member admitted that it was only a small minority who sent their ships to sea in the condition complained of. Much indignation had been expressed lately among the constituencies against particular Acts which placed a certain class of the community under the surveillance of the police, before there was any evidence that they intended to commit an offence against the law. It would be a still greater outrage than that to place under the surveillance of the police, without any evidence on which to go, a class who, whatever the faults of individual members of it, had raised the Mercantile Marine of this country to the greatest position of any Mercantile Marine ever known. He considered the Bill as singularly inopportune at the present time. Two things were necessary to justify the kind of legislation now proposed. One of them was that the offence was increasing, and the other that there were no means of dealing with it. On this point he might refer to Lloyd's returns for the last 10 years. During the last five years, with the exception of one year, the number of wrecks and casualties had been below the average, and in the five preceding years there was only one exception in which it had been above the average. The number of lives lost in the last year was 20 per cent less than the average, and in the first half-year of 1870 the number was below the average. It had been stated that many lives were lost from ships breaking up when driven ashore in consequence of the badness of those ships. Now, the fact was that the number of lives lost had decreased, while the number saved had increased, leading to the conclusion that the ships that had recently been driven on shore were in a better condition than the ships which were driven ashore formerly. Another reason for believing this to be 675 an inopportune time for dealing with the question was that the Government had introduced a measure which proposed to deal with it in a proper way, for it proposed to deal with the crime under the criminal law. Any ship reputed to be unseaworthy would be liable to inspection and detention. Then the draught of water was to be taken, thus affording means of further investigation. He trusted that one result of this discussion would be that Her Majesty's Government would show increased zeal in carrying their Bill through the House; that further delay in legislating upon the question would be prevented, and thus that the shipping interest would be saved from being made the victim of crude amateur legislation. Not only did he object to the principle of the present Bill, but to the machinery proposed to carry it into effect, which was singularly inefficient. With respect to Lloyd's Register, it was conducted by a committee in no way responsible to the public. Nothing was known of the constitution of that committee, or the grounds on which its decisions were based, and there was no appeal from those decisions. He thought it most undesirable to hand over the shipping for inspection to a body over whom the public had no control. With regard to the Liverpool Association, which was a rival association, still less was known. And now the House was asked to give a legislative sanction to those two irresponsible bodies, when the Tyne, the Clyde, and the Wear were outvying Liverpool in the building of ships. Then, with respect to placing the matter in the hands of Government Inspectors. No doubt the business of the Admiralty generally was well conducted; but there was a recent instance in which they had been unable to calculate within two feet the draught of a ship that was sent to sea. In addition to the Bill being inefficient he believed that its results would be most injurious. The hon. Member, in drawing his Bill, had evidently met with one difficulty, and that was the mode of dealing with foreign as well as with British ships. There would be a great difficulty in placing them in the same category. If any difference was made in favour of foreign shipping, as compared with British shipping, the result would be that British shipowners would sail their ships under a foreign 676 flag, in order to enjoy the advantages offered to foreigners and to evade the regulations made for British ships; whereas if both British and foreign ships had to submit to these regulations, involving, perhaps, considerable expense to the shipowner, we must expect that foreign Governments would imitate our example, and our shipowners would have to submit to exactions of all kinds in foreign ports, which would be levied under regulations nominally for the improvement of shipping, but really instituted in order to put money into the pockets of some official. Then, with respect to iron ships. Until very recently there had been no classing of these ships. The rules at Lloyd's had not been in existence more than 12 months, and if Inspectors should be appointed they would merely act upon their instructions, and not show any desire to improve them. The fact was that almost every improvement that had taken place within the last 20 years had been violated. On looking at the Bill of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) anyone would imagine that there were no ships unclassed. Now, the fact was that many of our large steam ships were not classed either at Lloyd's or anywhere else. One of the largest lines of Australian vessels had not a single ship classed. He knew of one ship which went to India for 12 years without being classed. When Lloyd's rules were altered that vessel was classed, and she was sold to the Government of India, after being in service some 20 years. He did not think that such a Bill as this could ever pass into law. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the case of the David Malcolm; but he understood there was a sufficient answer to the whole matter in the hands of the Board of Trade, and if the hon. Gentleman had persevered in his Question the other night on that subject, instead of withdrawing it then and making an ex parte statement now, he might have been better informed upon the circumstances of the case. Then the proposed regulations respecting coal were absurd, because it was well known that a ship of 1,000 tons was safer with 1,250 tons of coal on board than she would be if she carried 1,000 tons of iron. He did not believe the Bill would receive the sanction of the Legislature, inasmuch as it was inadequate to pre 677 vent vent evils which it proposed to check, unjust in its operation, inopportune in point of time, utterly inefficient in its machinery, andgenerally injurious to the shipping interest of the country. Under these circumstances, he begged to move that the second reading of the Bill be postponed until that day six months.
§ MR. RATHBONE
, in seconding the Amendment, said, he was sure there was no Member of the House who would not greatly sympathize with those who had brought in this Bill, in their wish to prevent ships from being sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition. No body of men were so much interested in this question as the shipowners of our large seaport towns, like the one he had the honour to represent. On looking at the back of the Bill it would be found to bear the names of three hon. Members representing inland constituencies, which fully accounted for the ignorance it displayed of the practical working of maritime affairs. His objection to the present Bill, and the objection which he believed was entertained by all the representatives of large maritime constituencies, was that it would tend to increase the very dangers which it was intended to prevent. The Bill was called the Merchant Shipping Survey Bill; but its title ought really to have been—"An Act to oblige the Board of Trade to grant certificates which would enable dishonest and incompetent shipowners to carry on their trade without fear of consequences." Its provisions, if it were passed, would be complied with conscientiously by the fair-dealing and honest shipowners, for whose guidance, indeed, they were quite unnecessary, while they would only impede the good management of ships; but, at the same time, they could be most easily evaded by anyone who was dishonest enough to make it his interest to send unseaworthy ships to sea. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) had ridiculed the idea of their being any difficulty in finding any number of competent surveyors to carry out the the details of the Bill, and got over the difficulty in a very easy way by saying that there were many ships which would not require to be surveyed. The hon. Gentleman then alluded to all the large steamboat companies and their vessels; but he had forgotten—or, perhaps, he was not aware of the fact—that these steamboats were unclassed ships, and that therefore the 678 Bill would apply to them as well as to the old rotten tubs which the hon. Gentleman has described. Was the hon. Gentleman aware of the immense temptation which the dishonest man or the man owning bad ships would be able to offer to the surveyors for the sake of getting them to grant him a certificate which would enable him to carry on his trade with impunity? Did the hon. Gentleman know that in a steam vessel of 2,170 tons every foot of immersion represented 225 tons of cargo carried, and taking only £6 a ton for a round voyage to India and back, it would be seen that in a single voyage the dishonest shipowner who could get his load-line placed one foot above what it ought to be would be able to make a profit of £1,200 or £1,300 more than he would otherwise obtain, so that he would be able to pay very handsomely to any surveyor who would accommodate him with a dishonest certificate. Then in the 3rd section of the Bill it was provided that the surveyor was to take into account the nature of the cargo and of the voyage to be made by the ship, and, of course, the survey was to be made before the contract for the voyage was entered into. But anybody who had any practical experience in shipping matters was aware that the shipowner very often did not know an hour before he made his contract and settled his party to what part he was going to send his ship, or what would be the nature of her cargo. He very often did not know the nature of all the cargo until after the contract was made, and if all the trouble of making the survey was to be taken then, and the whole trade of the country was compelled to submit to such an arrangement, the difficulties of carrying on that trade would be simply enormous, and good shipowners would be tempted to place their ships under foreign flags to escape such a burden. Any shipowner knew that he himself, until he had experienced the working of his own ship, could not decide to what depth he could safely load, nor what kind of cargo he could safely put on board, and the effect of this Bill would be simply this—that the surveyor would have to take the advice of the shipowner himself on this point, and that survey would therefore amount to absolutely nothing. No doubt that clause was inserted in the Bill to meet the objection entertained last year as to 679 the question, of the load line. On that point of the load-line the hon. Gentleman had quoted the Liverpool underwriters as entirely agreeing with him; but he (Mr. Rathbone) would first read a paragraph from their report of 1870, to show what importance they attached to it. The report stated that—A Motion was made by Sir John Pakington for a Commission of Inquiry on the subject, and 'A Bill to provide for the Greater Security of Life at Sea,' was brought in by Mr. Plimsoll and Mr. Wheelhouse; but the only result was a vague discussion of the subject. It is probable that the matter will again be brought before the House of Commons in the next Session. The difficulty of defining the proper load-line for a ship, especially when regard is had to difference of class, of cargo, of season and of length of voyage, is already observed to be much greater than was at first anticipated. It is now admitted that no simple rule can be made applicable with justice to all vessels.If the load-line were not effectual for the purpose for which it was intended, it would be simply dangerous, and it was evident that what might be quite safe and proper for a vessel three years old might be very dangerous for a vessel four years old, still more dangerous for one five years old, and so on in an increasing proportion. Any of the restrictions given under this Bill which were not efficient, would have the effect of lulling the vigilance of all concerned, and of removing responsibility from those who alone could take the necessary precautions for the safety of lives and vessels, and in that way every inefficient restriction would reduce the very safety which was sought to be gained. There was another clause in the Bill, in which the hon. Gentleman provided that a shipowner should not be allowed to repair a ship if it was imprudent for him to do so. He (Mr. Rathbone) only wished the hon. Gentleman could give them a rule by which they would be able to decide that point. To repair a vessel was a mere question of cost of putting in a sufficient amount of planks, beams, knees, &c.; but many shipowners had often found to their cost that when they had once begun repairing they had had almost to rebuild a ship. In his opinion, the measure now under discussion was not calculated to effect its object, and was likely to increase the evils it was intended to prevent. The legislation required was such as would increase the responsibility of the shipowners, and not relieve them from it altogether, as this measure was calculated 680 to do. If the Bill were carried, the public and the underwriters would be lulled into a false security, and would rely upon anything rather than their vigilance to guard against danger. The measure of the right hon. Gentleman, on the other hand, made it a misdemeanour for a shipowner to send to sea an unsea-worthy ship, relieved sailors from the obligation to sail in such a vessel that now existed, and required that a proper record should be kept of each ship's draught of water, so that the necessary evidence might always be at hand for bringing the law home to the guilty. For the reasons he had given he begged to second the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Eustace Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, the Bill required very careful consideration to see how far it justified the grounds on which it had been brought forward. In the first place, was it brought forward at an opportune time? Hardly; for they had already before them a Bill of the Government on shipping matters containing 600 or 700 sections, and treating of everything, and yet the present Bill was introduced, like Smellfungus, to do something else besides. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) ought to have waited to see if he could not get those provisions which he thought essential incorporated with the Government measure. A leading feature in this Bill was its great extent—it dealt with every boat on every tidal river in the United Kingdom, for the Courts of Law had recently decided that the word "ship" included every boat propelled by anything other than oars alone, so that every boat which had the means of shipping a mast and sail would come under the provisions of this measure. Then the proposed survey was to be made annually, for ships were only to be certified for 12 months, and the expense that would thus be involved would be a very considerable tax upon the shipowners every year. The certificate, however, was only to deal with the hull and rigging, and would have nothing to do with sails, anchors, or cables, which were of equal importance with 681 the other parts of the vessel; and it seemed to Mm but a queer kind, of provision for the saving of life which would allow a ship to go to sea without any sails, anchors, or cables. As to the load-line, the Bill was not confined to un-classed vessels, but extended to all, and the load-line might be fixed upon a principle which applied very well to one kind of vessel, but which would not apply at all, or apply very badly to another kind, and as many people might be sent to "Davy Jones's locker" through that as were sent there at present. The next point in the Bill was a very curious one, seeing that the measure was brought forward on the plea that it would tend to the saving of life. Whenever Manchester was a little dull, the case of the Liverpool shipowners was immediately brought forward, and every Manchester man vehemently cheered everything said about Liverpool. But the people in the country said this—not that he should think of making such a statement himself—that this was nothing more than a "humanity dodge" to set up a monopoly for inland coal at the expense of seaborne coal. It was singular that the Bill should give some colour to that insinuation by placing restrictions upon ships bringing coal to the Thames which were not to be enforced in the case of their taking that commodity to Hamburg or Havre. With respect to the alleged overloading of vessels, it had been shown by the Returns for 1869 that, of 143 vessels which had foundered or stranded off the coast, the very large proportion of 55 were in ballast. That was a fact that went far to shake the general opinion that the loss of life at sea was occasioned by overloading vessels. He himself thought that Government interference very often did more harm than good. No one could look back for the last 30 years without connecting the constant increase in the number of wrecks with the continual interference of Government in maritime affairs; but still, whatever ought to be done in legislating on this subject had better be done in the Bill introduced by the Government; and, perhaps, it would be better still to leave the responsibility where it was at present, and not have any interference at all. No doubt it was a great hardship to compel any man who honestly believed that a vessel was unseaworthy to go to sea in that vessel; but, on the 682 other hand, care ought to be taken not to open the door too widely to allowing men to refuse to make voyages on the mere pretence of such an allegation, which it would take so much trouble and inconvenience to prove or disprove.
§ MR. NORWOOD
complained of the unreasonably strong and extravagant language of the hon. Member who introduced the Bill (Mr. Plimsoll), not only in that House, but out-of-doors. At a meeting in Manchester on the 11th January, for instance, the hon. Gentleman spoke of—Some black-hearted villains who bought and owned ships and insured them not for three-fourths of their value, which was generally considered the proper thing, but for twice and even three times their value" and who then "set their wicked arts to work to accomplish the wreck of their ships in order to get the insurance money.The hon. Gentleman went on at the same meeting to say that that kind of thing happened every day. His statements of fact were equally extravagant. The statistics showed that the loss of life around the coasts of the United Kingdom caused by ships foundering at sea—and this applied essentially to the question of overloading — amounted, in 1870, to 435 lives in 81 vessels lost; but 53 of them were fishing boats and small craft, ranging from 11 to 80 tons, employed in specially hazardous trades, while, about one-third were in ballast, and not carrying cargo, when the accidents occurred. So, with regard to collisions, strandings, and other casualties round the coasts of the United Kingdom, fully one-third of the ships were of small tonnage and were not carrying cargo, but ballast, when accidents happened to them. The danger might, perhaps, be lessened if an uniform load-line could be fixed; but this was impossible with the many varieties of craft, both in build and rig, now used in the Mercantile Marine, and the Bill made no reference to the necessity of a minimum as well as a maximum load-line. His main objection to the Bill of the hon. Gentleman was that it would, by placing shipowners under an increased amount of surveillance, diminish their personal responsibility, and so render human life less safe at sea than it was at present. There was too much of that kind of Government interference in the Merchant Shipping Acts. The fact was that the Bill was promoted in the interests of the Register Books of Lloyd's and the Underwriters' Association of Liverpool, and 683 those two bodies were totally irresponsible. If Parliament intended that there should be a general survey of ships, such survey must be made by a Government Department without any distinctions whatever; but if such a system should be adopted, the Board of Trade would be called upon to survey 21,000 ships of a considerable size, to say nothing of small smacks and boats. He considered the Bill to be entirely impracticable, and he indignantly repudiated the wholesale charges which had been made against shipowners. There was now in the possession of hon. Members the Merchant Shipping Code, which had been recently introduced by the Government, and as that measure would, in his opinion, deal effectually with the questions involved in the proposal before the House, he hoped the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) would not press his Bill to a Division on the Motion for second reading.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, he wished to call the attention of the House to some documents which he had received from Sir Arthur Kennedy, the Governor of the West Coast of Africa. That gentleman had, during the last 12 months, sent him, by almost every mail, accounts of the overloading of steamers and vessels leaving the West Coast of Africa for this country, and especially by deck-loads. The documents he would refer to dealt only with part of the question, and in passing he would express a hope that the measure which the Government had in hand would contain a provision in reference to the subject of overloading by deck-loading. The first of these documents was a declaration, signed at Sierra Leone, in January last, by the master of a vessel, who stated that during a gale which he encountered in December a great part of his deck-load was washed overboard, and, in order to save his ship, he was compelled to cast the remainder into the sea. The list of goods lost included 50 casks of beer, 16 cases of matches, 7 casks of beer, 20 boxes of pipes, 2 crates of earthenware, 2 drums of paraffin, and 1 cask of varnish. There was also a large quantity of gunpowder. The Governor appended to the declaration the remark that this vesssel was of only 138 tons register, manned by a crew of nine men, the accommodation provided for whom was unfit for a dog, for if they escaped drowning they were almost sure to die of dirt and ex 684 posure. The other document was a report, dated January 24, 1871, in reference to the arrival of a vessel of 898 tons; amongst the cargo of which were 1,182 casks of palm oil, 2,019 boxes of kernels, and other boxes and parcels amounting to a total of 5,201, besides 1,109 pieces of ebony. Sir Arthur Kennedy stated that this was one of five monthly steamers sailing between West Africa and Liverpool, and carrying dangerous deck-loads. He thought there could be no harm in allowing the Bill now before the House to be read a second time, so that it might be considered in Committee, and then if the Government measure was found to be more effectual, the necessity for this Bill would cease. It was the duty of the Government and the Legislature to interfere for the protection of sailors, and he should therefore vote for the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he had listened with great interest to the discussion on the Bill of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll), and he thought it was calculated to bring out the real state of the case, and greatly to assist the House in giving a vote upon this very interesting though not very easy question. He entirely agreed with those who recognized the humane motives which had actuated the hon. Member in bringing the measure before the House; but their business was simply to consider whether the inconveniences which this Bill would inflict would not be greater than the advantages it could attain; and whether there were not better means of attaining the end which the hon. Member had in view. In his opinion the Government had already placed before the House better means of attaining the object, so far as the object was practicable. After giving his best attention to the subject, he was not able to advise the House to allow this Bill to be read a second time; nor was he prepared, on the part of the Government, to undertake the enormous and hardly profitable labour which the Bill proposed to impose. The hon. Member described his Bill as a limited one; but his opinion was, that if it was to do any good at all, it would involve an enormous amount of Government interference with the trade of this country. Under this Bill the Board of Trade would have to be for ever surveying every vessel in the United Kingdom, and not 685 merely English ships, but foreign ships entering our ports. An annual survey would be by no means sufficient, because vessels were continually changing their cargoes and their voyages. As to the load-line, he was told, upon authority which he could not doubt, that no general or abstract rule could be laid down on the subject, and consequently special and numerous surveys would be necessary for that purpose also. In the 5th clause provision was made for "judicial surveys," to be made upon the application of any interested party; and in a further part of the same clause it was proposed to constitute the local Courts of Admiralty in some sort local Boards of Trade, making them administrative bodies. Under this arrangement anyone who considered a ship to be unseaworthy could put the whole machinery of the Court in motion for the survey, detention, or, if necessary, breaking-up of a ship. Such stringent provisions would require the strongest case to justify their adoption. He did not desire to lay down any absolute doctrine upon the subject, or to bind the Government by any theoretic principle to interfere or not to interfere in these matters. Such questions should be decided on their merits; but he contended that, before the House adopted a costly scheme which would cause such vexatious interference with trade, they must be well satisfied that there were no other means of gaining the same object as that sought by the hon. Member. There had been a tendency to assume that it was enough to read statistics of loss of life at sea, and to submit this Bill as a remedy. But even supposing the measure to be accepted, and to be admirably and successfully administered, how many causes of loss of life and property would it meet? It was difficult to state the number of those causes. The hon. Member admitted, however, that the Bill did not deal with some of the most important—as, for instance, the construction and manning of ships, and the stowing of cargoes, which were matters of vital importance. There were also such everyday causes as collisions, carelessness and ignorance of navigators, to say nothing of the perils of the sea, which no Bill of this kind could meet. The question, therefore, naturally arose, whether it was worth while to employ "an army of officials" of high character and at great cost, in the hope of preventing a few out 686 of a very limited class of the accidents and disasters which produced loss of life and property at sea. As he had already said, in his opinion the Bill which the Government had placed upon the Table would meet the necessities of the case far more effectually and upon a sounder principle. That Bill contained several most important provisions in relation to this very subject. First, it provided that before a ship left port her draught of water should be carefully ascertained, in order that facility might be afforded in case of subsequent casualty, for judging as to whether she was or was not overloaded. In the next place, it made the sending of a ship to sea in an unseaworthy state a misdemeanour, thus imposing a serious responsibility upon the shipowner. The Bill would also enable any sailor to refuse to proceed with a ship in an un-seaworthy condition, and to demand an official investigation by the surveyor of the Board of Trade. Lastly, the Government Bill would provide that any person having or supposing he had, knowledge of a ship being unseaworthy, might demand and procure a Board of Trade survey. The difference between this proposal and that of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) was, that whereas the hon. Member wished to impose upon the Government a compulsory and indiscriminate survey, with all the inconveniences consequent thereupon, the Government themselves thought it best to place the power of demanding the surveys in the hands of those most nearly interested in the safety of the ships. These being the main, and, as he thought, satisfactory, provisions of the Government measure, he could not advise the House to read the Bill of the hon. Member a second time; and, therefore, in case a decision was persisted in, he should be compelled to enforce by his Vote the opinion he had expressed in regard to it.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
expressed his approval of the safeguards which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. C. Fortescue) had described as being provided by the Government Bill. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take the advice of some of his Friends and split the Bill, giving some of these clauses in a Bill by themselves, so that they might be certain that a part of the Bill might pass this year, and that, for the sake of humanity, the public might 687 have the advantage of such clauses. The causes of the loss of ships were principally five—unseaworthiness, age, or other causes, overloading ships, under-loading ships, and want of harbours of refuge. He thought it a great pity that any element of bitterness should be imported into this subject, which was one of great importance, and one that concerned the lives of thousands of our best seamen. The House ought to consider it with as much calmness and deliberation as possible, for he was quite certain if a Commission of naval men and shipowners were appointed they would find means by which the problem might be solved. He urged that the Bill should contain a clause for providing that vessels carrying deck-load should be subject to a special survey. With regard to harbours of refuge, that question had been considered by the Commissioners on that subject; but from the niggardly policy of this country their suggestion, that harbours of refuge would be the best means of saving a great many lives, had not been carried out. The great loss of life on the Eastern Coast arose from collisions. Ships were collected to the number of 500 sail at Beachy Head, and there was great confusion among the ships, which ended in collisions. The wrecks were not to be seen at that place, because the unfortunate ships struck on different points of the coast, and it was not to these different points of the coast that the danger attached, but to the salient points where the danger occurred. The question of the fault of captains was a serious question. He had taken pains some years ago to endeavour to persuade the Government to establish a great naval college, where the captains of merchant ships should meet with officers of the Navy and together learn the elements of their profession. When he was in great hopes that that plan would be adopted, it was laid aside. It was a matter of serious importance that steps should be taken to improve the education of the masters and officers of ships. In looking over the number of ships lost in foreign countries he found that the number of wrecks in connection with which the commander had been deprived of his certificate had been very great indeed, and the proportion in which the certificate had been returned had been very small.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, there was no doubt that many ships were lost through their unseaworthiness. He thought that any man who sent a ship to sea in an unseaworthy state for the purpose of obtaining the insurance on that ship was more guilty of cold-blooded murder than most of the criminals who were sent to the gallows; and he wondered how a shipowner who made sailors run even the smallest risk of that sort could sleep quietly in his bed when a gale of wind was blowing. He did not quite agree with the low value the hon. Member (Mr. E. Smith) had attached to the classification of ships. No doubt there were many good ships which were not classed at Lloyd's, or elsewhere, especially those which belonged to persons or companies whose name alone was a guarantee. But there were many other vessels which found the disadvantage of the want of character, in the case of insurance, or charter. When this matter was brought before him in former days, when he was in Office, three principal remedies used to be suggested—the load-line, the making this practice of sending ships to sea in an unseaworthy state a misdemeanour, and the limitation of insurance. [Mr. SAMUDA: Hear!] He knew the hon. Member had a strong opinion upon this point; but he (Mr. Cave) had come to the conclusion that such limitation would be constantly evaded. The other two points were dealt with in the Government Bill. As to the general question whether the Government should lay down strict rules as to matters of detail, the official experience he had had convinced him that the attempt to do so would defeat their own purposes, because it would relieve shipowners from responsibility. When particular modes of construction were insisted on a lower level was frequently established—the minimum was apt to become the maximum. It would be unwise to prohibit deck-loads in all cases; and as to what had been said about carrying dangerous cargo, such as petroleum, on deck, it was probably the safest place for it. He thought the proper principle to act upon was to leave the fullest freedom to all parties, and then, judging by results, to punish with the severest penalties those who were guilty of the offences in question. There were so many reasons why ships were lost besides those specified 689 in the Bill, that he did not think the Bill was sufficiently complete to answer its purpose. He thought that more than half of the disasters to ships were attributable to carelessness, drunkenness, and want of discipline. He would say one word on the somewhat sensational cards, circulated by the promoter of the Bill, about working men on board ship. Of course, a sailor was a working man, though he would probably prefer being called a sailor; but the object of those cards seemed to be to convey an impression that sailors were neglected by the Legislature. Nothing could be farther from the fact. Acts had very recently been passed in Parliament for the amelioration of their provisions, accommodation, medicine, lime juice, and many similar objects. He thought it would be for the convenience of the House if the hon. Member withdrew his Bill, and moved Amendments or additions to the Bill of the Government on those points which he considered defective.
§ MR. T. HUGHES
reminded the House that every speaker had admitted the need of legislation. But they were told by the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Merchant Shipping Bill to rely upon the clauses on this subject contained in that Bill. Now the Bill was one of 700 clauses, and he asked if there was any Gentleman in the House except the right hon. Gentleman himself who expected that the Bill would pass into law this year? [Mr. CHICHESTER. FORTESCUE: Yes.] Well, at any rate, he wished to have two strings to his bow in this matter. He (Mr. T. Hughes) pointed out that in the case of a misdemeanour for sending a ship to sea in an unseaworthy state the matter was to be enforced in one of the Superior Courts, which he declared to be a farce. He read extracts from a recent report of the Associated Chamber of Commerce to show that provision should be made for a maximum load-line to steamers, and he also read resolutions of the said Chamber to show that the Chamber approved of both principles of the Bill. Similar arguments had been used in this case by shipowners as had been used against the Factories Act and other measures, which were aimed against similar abuses in other trades. He hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Plimsoll) would withdraw his Bill, if the President of the Board of Trade would undertake to intro 690 duce as a separate Bill those clauses of the Merchant Shipping Bill which related to this subject. But if the right hon. Gentleman would not undertake to do so, he (Mr. T. Hughes) would vote for the second reading of his hon. Friend's Bill.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he had brought the subject before the House last year, and he felt bound to express his deep regret at the shameful manner in which life and property had been sacrificed by the overloading of ships. If the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) divided, he (Sir John Pakington) should go with him into the Lobby; not because he supported every part of the Bill, but because he thought an effective remedy needed to be applied. He regretted to say that he listened without any satisfaction to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. C. Fortescue), who addressed the House in a Board of Trade tone. The House was under great disadvantage through the frequent changes at the Board of Trade. As now constituted, that Board had no experience on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman, after the manner of the Board of Trade, was too much in favour of his big Bill, which evinced great anxiety about the trading interest, but scarcely contained a word about the wrecks that occurred around these coasts from year to year. Thousands of our fellow-citizens were annually lost through the cupidity of shipowners and through a want of proper care and vigour on the part of the Executive of this country. In his opinion there were only two ways in which this matter could be satisfactorily dealt with—one, by the Government undertaking to deal with the subject as a Government, and the other by doing that which he suggested last Session—namely, addressing the Crown for a Royal Commission of Inquiry on this subject. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would accede to the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last and of his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), by introducing as a separate Bill those clauses of the Merchant Shipping Bill which related to this subject. He thought all parties would give to such a measure the fairest possible consideration. If the right hon. Gentleman would not do so, he (Sir John Pakington) gave Notice that he would repeat his proposal for a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he was quite ready to bring in as a separate Bill such of the clauses of the Merchant Shipping Bill as had been referred to, if the latter measure should not receive the sanction of the House.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he thought that the measure which had been submitted to the House had met with the condemnation of hon. Members. A great many arguments had been put forward in favour of legislation, but not in favour of the measure now proposed, which he believed to be one of the most unworkable and impracticable propositions that had been brought before that House since he entered it. The proportion of losses to tonnage was 4 per cent in England, 4 per cent in Germany, 3 per cent in Sweden. In these countries there were no surveys; but in France, where the survey system existed, the proportion was 5 per cent of losses, and the Chambers of Commerce had memorialized the Government to do away with the system. The question of the proper load-line was a very difficult one, and had thus far puzzled the most scientific shipbuilders, because what would suit one class of ship would not suit another, and what would suit one class of cargo would not suit another. When a practical solution of the difficulty was arrived at he would give it his best consideration, but he would not consent to an ill-conceived, impracticable proposal like the present. While he felt anxious for legislation, he could not support such a measure as had been placed before the House.
said, that his right hon. Friend (Mr. C. Fortescue) had been desirous to explain that he was perfectly ready to deal with this question this Session. If the whole of the large measure which had been alluded to could not be passed, his right hon. Friend would be prepared to eliminate those clauses of the Bill which referred specially to this subject, and to embody them in a separate Bill.
§ Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.