§ MR. JOSEPH H. WILSON (Middlesbrough)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the conduct of Her Majesty's Consul at New York, who is alleged to have neglected his duty in not protecting the seamen of the steamship "Godolphin," who were discharged before him from that vessel on the 14th January last, and who were entitled under the Merchant Shipping Act, owing to the expiration of the articles of agreement, to have their passages paid to the United Kingdom, and their wages up to their arrival at some port in the United Kingdom, and if he is aware of the fact that the British Consul, in a letter to the General Secretary of the Seamen's Union, intimated that the men had received such compensation, and that afterwards, in a letter to the Board of Trade, stated he had instructed the owners to pay the men twenty-three days' wages, and whether he is aware the said twenty-three days' wages still remain unpaid, as the owners of the steamship "Godolphin" repudiate their liability; what steps, if any, does he propose to take with respect to the alleged neglect of duty by Her Majesty's Consul at New York, and if any steps will be taken to compel the owners to pay to the crew of the "Godolphin" the money to which they are entitled; and, seeing the many complaints against British Consuls abroad as to their treatment of British seamen, whether Her Majesty's Government will at an early date appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the conduct of such Consuls, and the various charges of neglect of duty which officials of the Seamen's Union are prepared to prefer against a number of Consuls in several foreign ports?
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH, Bristol, W.)
I am aware of the circumstances relating to the "Godolphin," as stated in the question; but I 314 see no reason to suppose that Her Majesty's Consul General at New York neglected his duty in the matter. On the contrary, he appears to have seen that the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act were complied with, and, in addition, to have done his best to secure the payment of the seamen's wages till their arrival in the United Kingdom. I therefore do not propose to take any steps with regard to his alleged neglect, and I have no power to compel the owners of the "Godolphin" to pay the wages in dispute. The question of their liability can only be decided by a Court of Law, at the suit of the seamen themselves. With regard to the last paragraph of the hon. Member's question, the matter is one rather for the Foreign Office than for the Board of Trade. I can only say that no evidence has been placed before me that would justify the appointment of a Select Committee to make the inquiries he suggests.