said, he would beg to ask the Vice President of the Board of Trade, Whether any application has been made to his Department on the subject of the imprisonment in Beaumaris Gaol, county of Anglesey, as deserters, of seamen who have refused to go to sea on the ground of the unseaworthiness of the ships in which they entered; and, whether he intends to introduce to Parliament any measure to insure an efficient and impartial survey of ships complained of as unseaworthy?
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, he found that a memorial from the Anglesey Justices was transmitted to the Board of Trade by the hon. and gallant Member himself so long ago as November, 1864, complaining of the burden on the county, and injustice to crews, which were caused by the justices being obliged to commit to the county gaol, as deserters, men who refused to proceed to sea on the ground of the unseaworthiness of ships, but who were unable to bring sufficient evidence of their assertion, and enclosing a Return of thirteen vessels whose crews had been so imprisoned, six of which subsequently were lost, failed to arrive, or put back in distress. The law was certainly defective in this matter. When the crew went ashore to make a complaint of the ship, the master was in such cases usually beforehand with a counter-charge of desertion. The evidence before the justices generally consisted of hard swearing on both sides. If the justices required the evidence of a surveyor, they had no power to enforce it. The master would 990 refuse the admission to his ship of any person whom he did not himself approve, and would treat him as a trespasser. The Government proposed, therefore, to insert in the Merchant Shipping Bill now in the House of Lords a provision that, if required by either party, the justices should call upon a surveyor of the Board of Trade to survey the ship, whose Report should be received as evidence, and who should have full power to go on board and make his inspection. The hon. and gallant Member must, however, bear in mind that the seamen were not always in the right. Some made it a practice to get their advance note and leave the ship, on pretext of unseaworthiness or some similar excuse, on the first opportunity. The Board of Trade had recently before them the case of a man who had done so successfully no less than thirteen times. He was glad, however, to inform the hon. and gallant Member that a Report received from Beaumaris the day before yesterday stated that there were only ten prisoners in the gaol, not one of whom was a seafaring man.