HC Deb 24 May 1892 vol 4 cc1670-1

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the grave charges that have been made by the Sailors' and Firemen's Union with reference to the conduct of the Mercantile Marine officials at Sunderland and South Shields, and also as to the conduct of the boarding masters, who have been illegally supplying seamen, he will at once direct a full inquiry to be made by some responsible officer of the Board; and whether he is aware that the conduct of the Superintendent of the Mercantile Marine at Sunderland has been called into question on four different occasions, for the unfair way he has acted in encouraging the shipment of men at reduced wages and for the conveyance of such men from other ports to Sunderland?


If any grave charge supported by adequate evidence that the Merchant Shipping Acts have been infringed, either by the Mercantile Marine officials or by the boarding masters at Sunderland and Shields, should be laid before the Board of Trade, I should certainly have it carefully investigated; but nothing has come before me at present which seems to demand such an inquiry as the hon. Member suggests. With regard to the boarding masters, I understand that prosecutions have been instituted and punishment inflicted in some cases. It is the duty of the Board of Trade officers to give every proper facility for the engagement of seamen at whatever rate of wages they may have agreed to serve; and the officers are expected to act with complete neutrality in cases of disputes between employers and employed.


I should like to ask whether, as a matter of fact, considerable discontent prevails with regard to the action of the Mercantile officers; and whether it is not the case that complaint has been made to the Board of Trade representing that the officers have in cases of dispute interfered on behalf of the employers against the men?


One complaint has been made with respect to which the hon. Gentleman asked me a question the other day. I investigated it, and I found no reason to take any action.