§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question proposed [20 December] on Consideration of Lords' Amendments, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the Amendment in page 2, line 22, after Clause 5, to Insert Clause (a)—
§ (Notice to be given by seamen.)
§ "(a) A seaman intending to claim compensation for personal injury shall give notice in writing, stating, in ordinary language, the nature of the injury, to the master of the vessel on which he is employed, who shall forthwith enter a copy of the notice received into the official log of the vessel, or to the owner of the vessel, within three mouths from the date of his sustaining such injury, and the action shall be commenced within three mouths of the seaman's arrival at any purl of the United Kingdom. Provided always, that if on the hearing of the ease the plaintiff can show to the satisfaction of the Court that, by reason of the nature of his injury, or otherwise, it was impossible for him to give such notice as aforesaid, the Court shall dispense with such notice, and shall hear and decide the case as though such notice, had been duly given."—(Mr. Secretary Asquith.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.130
§ MR. DONKIN (Tynemouth)
said, as one who had lengthened experience, he was obliged to the Home Secretary for admitting that he had scruples in regard to the subject dealt with in this Amendment. That admission was, however, only in keeping with the views put forward by the right hon. Gentleman to a deputation of shipowners on the 8th of March. The views which the right hon. Gentleman then expressed had raised the hopes of the shipowners, who now found that their confidence in the right hon. Gentleman had been misplaced. At that time he acknowledged that cases of hardship might arise, and he premised to give the matter careful consideration— that was, the point, as to a special limit of time within which claims could be filed. It was remarkable that not one of the Gladstonian Peers had raised a voice against the Amendment. The reason given by the right hon. Gentleman for his change of view—
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
I have not changed my views at all.
§ MR. DONKIN
said, he had referred to the right hon. Gentleman's speech on the point: and he might say that he was amazed at the right, hon. Gentleman's change of expression. The reason which the right hon. Gentleman gave was that he did not see any difference between the shipping industry and other industries. The shipping industry was the one, above all others, which was the most interfered with by legislative enactments, and shipowners could hardly move hand or foot without having some official or other down upon them. This arose from the fact that the shipping industry was distinct from every other industry in the country. That it, was distinct from other industries he could show by reference to a case of a sailor injured on an Australian vessel, which sailed from the United Kingdom, and was away six months, during the whole of which time the question involved must remain in abeyance; or, again, by reference to a case where action could not he taken until a time at which the ship would have sailed again. Would the right hon. Gentleman get any analogous cases in other industries? Again, a claim might be made 6 or 12 months I after the hands had been paid off, when the captain and officers had gone back to 131 sea, and, in that event, the owner would l>e absolutely without evidence. It was remarkable that not a single Member of the other side (the Government side) had said a word on this subject, he asked hon. Members opposite to give some reason for the faith that was in them. The shipping industry was certainly the most important in this country; and if the Government harassed it still further with legislative enactments, they might try it almost to the breaking strain.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, he hoped the House would disagree with this Amendment. Such notices as it provided were really no safeguard, and, indeed, inflicted very great injury on suitors; and he understood they were now looked upon as almost obsolete, so far, at any rate, as any question of their reenactment was concerned. There were crews and crews; and lo assume that a crew of Lascars, for instance, was to know the law was to lay a very heavy burden upon them. Even if the members of a crew knew that they must give notice, they might not know how it was to be done. If a man did know and went to the cabin and said that he charged the captain or mate with negligence and requested that a note of it should be made in the official log, what would be the effect upon the happiness or comfort of that man for the rest of the voyage? he did not see that the inconvenience as to want of notice was so great as had been pointed out. If the crew were scattered, the owner would have more means of bringing them back than the sailor who might want their evidence. But this they knew from experience: that if a complainant hold back and made no complaint, and it seemed that he had allowed the crew to be scattered for the purpose of being placed in a position of advantage, the Courts would postpone the trial almost from year to year till those persons were brought back. And where it appeared that a man had chosen not to make his complaint promptly, the fact always reflected upon him in the eyes of any common sense jury. As to the power given to the Judge, at his own discretion, to say the complainant ought to have given notice or not, it seemed to be reducing litigation to au absurdity. Such a power, if given at all, ought to be exercised before the litigation commenced, 132 and not after the expenses of the trial were already incurred. On the whole, he submitted that no case had been made out for the Amendment.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON (Hull, W.)
said, speaking as a shipowner, he was of opinion that the Amendment as it stood would do more harm than good. The shipowning interest had had so many camels to swallow in the shape of legislation that it was no use straining at this small gnat. He hoped, therefore, the Amendment would be allowed to drop as one not really in the interests of shipowners at all. They must remember that, after all was said and done, the life of the sailor was a hard life, and he really wanted a certain amount of protection.
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he agreed that the case of the shipowners required special consideration, but he thought the Amendment as it stood was not a good Amendment, He would remind the House that it would often be difficult to get evidence when required by reason of the captain and officers, as they often did to his own knowledge, going home to their wives and families after landing, and then taking another vessel and going away. There was no certainty of employment. As a practical proposal he would suggest that when au injury occurred to a man on board ship, he should, if he proposed to bring an action, give notice of the injury to the captain and have it entered in the log-book, when it would become a valuable record in case of an action at law. But he could not vote for the Lords' Amendment as it stood. He did not agree with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury. His opinion was that sailors wore very ready to make complaint; but they would not, perhaps, be so anxious to make frivolous complaints if they had to deal with entries in the log-book.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Amendments as far as the Amendment in page 7, line 33, considered, and agreed to.
Amendment in page 7, line 33, after the word "Act," to insert the words—
Other than an agreement for insurance against injury within the exception contained in section four.
The next Amendment read a second time, and disagreed to.
Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned re the herds fur disagreeing to certain of the Amendments:—Sir. Secretary Asquith. Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, The Lord Advocate. Mr. Attorney General, Mr. Herbert Gladstone. Mr. Thomas hurl, mid Mr. Causton:—To withdraw immediately.
§ Ordered, that Three be the quorum.—(Mr. Secretary Asquith.)