§ Resolutions [5th July] reported.
§ Resolutions read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the First Resolution."
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, when this Vote was before the Committee last night, he was about to ask a question in reference to one of the items, when the impatience of an hon. Member opposite cut him short with the Closure Motion. A little more patience would have enabled him to finish his remarks, would have saved the time taken in a Division then, and in repeating his question now. He merely wanted to know how it was there were no separate items given in regard to the amount for the "General Register of Shipping for Seamen," £11,864. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade would give some explanation now?
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he should like to hear some reason why the Board of Trade were always opposing the action of the Indian Government in trying to prevent unfortunate seamen being paid in rupees at the value of two shillings a rupee when paid off in India, 681 the rupee being, in actual worth, only 1s. 4¾d. Great complaints had been made of the practice in Bombay and Calcutta, and two Viceroys had endeavoured to check it, but still the Board of Trade would take no action. Why was this?
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH) (Bristol, W.)
said, the matter to which the hon. Member referred was a matter of private arrangement between employers and seamen, and depended on the terms of the contract between them. As to the question of the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner), the Office to which he alluded was now in process of re-organization, and when the re-organization was complete, a large saving in expenditure would be effected. The Estimates did not show the normal strength of the Office; but it would be observed there was a saving of £8,000 out of £18,000.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give a little more specific information. Last year the Vote was for £16,000, and all the details were given with every particular; but in this Estimate there was simply a lump sum, without any explanation of the £11,000, which was a reduction not of £8,000 but of £5,000 on last year's Vote. But it was impossible to understand what was likely to be the character or result of the charges about to be made. He would ask whether in the re-organization there were among the men displaced from the Establishment of the General Register for Seamen, several who were fit for employment in other departments of the Board of Trade or other branches of the Civil Service? It was very well known that in the Registry Office for Seamen there were scandalous abuses. One man was paid £400 for making seven or eight entries a day in a book, which book was never seen by anybody but himself. That was the kind of Office it was; and although in previous years the subject had been matter of considerable animadversion, the Office was always defended by the Minister of the day as beyond control or improvement. But now the cat was out of the bag, the abuses had been officially recognized, and there was to be re-organization and considerable alterations. But the men removed from their nominal work in the Office might be 682 placed on the Pension List while yet young, or they might be employed in other work. To put them on the Pension List meant unnecessary expenditure on that account, while every year new men entering the Civil Service did work upon which the pensioned men might very well be employed, and, in their turn, helped to swell the Pension List, and the nominal saving disappeared altogether. Did the right hon. Gentleman contemplate employing the men removed from the staff of the Registry Office in other branches of the Board of Trade; or, if not, would the Civil Service Commissioners allow their services to be availed of elsewhere? If some such course were not adopted, it would be a serious blot on the Civil Service administration.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, he might be allowed to speak again to assure the hon. Member that this point had been carefully reviewed. Only the other day, he gave directions that six clerks from the 13 who were available for re-employment should be transferred to another Office. [Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: What Office?] He had forgotten the Department at the moment, but they had been retained in the Public Service, and there would therefore be no increase on the pension charges on their account. The Board of Trade were taking every possible care to carry out the wish expressed by the House, and, as far as possible, any increase in pensions by the alteration would be avoided.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, he must press the point in reference to the payment of seamen in rupees. The subject had been brought to the attention of the Government from the other side only a few weeks ago, though only incidentally, by the hon. Member for Hull. Seamen were practically defrauded of a great proportion of their earnings, because in many cases men, when paid off in India or perhaps left behind through sickness, were paid in rupees at the rate of 2s., while the actual value of a rupee was about 1s. 4½d. The men did not thoroughly understand the position until they found themselves paid, instead of the £3 a-month for which they agreed, only two-thirds that amount. He did not quite know what amount of control the Board of Trade could exercise in ship- 683 ping matters; but it appeared to him— and it was a suggestion that came from the other side of the House—that it was only right some method should be adopted, by advertisement or otherwise, to press upon seamen—
§ It being One of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House, without Question put, till Monday next.