HC Deb 15 March 1886 vol 303 cc816-7
CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N., Buckingham)

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether he is aware that, owing to the abolishing of advance notes in 1881, the crimping system in some American ports has been within the last few months elevated into a fine art, so that seamen are practically swindled out of all their wages before they embark on their voyage, and then, having signed articles in the presence of Her Majesty's Consul for a shilling a month, they are paid off in this Country, or in a Continental port, absolutely penniless; and, if so, whether immediate orders will be telegraphed to Her Majesty's Consuls in America forbidding them directly or indirectly to countenance this iniquity?

THE PRESIDENT (Mr. MUNDELLA) (Sheffield, Brightside)

The advance note was abolished in this country in 1881, and I am informed that good results have followed its abolition. I am at a loss to understand how its abolition in England can have facilitated crimping in the United States, which is an abuse of long standing, and has been the subject of repeated representations from Her Majesty's Government. The United States Government have recently passed a law to render advance notes absolutely illegal, with a view to putting a stop to crimping. Crimping, nevertheless, goes on, and advances are made. In a recent case where nearly a whole crew were landed destitute at Amsterdam, they had signed articles at New York for 1s. for the first month; but I subsequently learnt that they had each received an advance of $25 at New York. This did not appear on the face of the agreement, and the British Consul had no official cognizance of it; but the men fully understood that they were signing for 1s. a-month for the first month, and knew why they were doing so. I have given instructions that further inquiry should be made of Her Majesty's Consuls in the United States respecting the operation of the law with regard to advance notes, and will consider what steps can be taken to check the evils to which the hon. Member has called attention.