§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, what was the aggregate value, for each of the last five years, of the wages and effects of seamen, forfeited for desertion, and paid into the Exchequer, in accordance with the Merchant Shipping Act?
§ MR. HANBURY
The returns of fines and forfeitures under the Merchant Shipping Acts are sent to the Home Office by the Justices' Clerks, but I am informed that the entries in the forfeitures column are nil, and that the forfeitures (if any) are lumped with the penalties, and it is impossible for either the Home Office or the Treasury to distinguish the amounts separately. I doubt whether there have been any forfeitures. The Board of Trade, who administer the Merchant Shipping Act, state that a man does not become a deserter until an actual prosecution for desertion has taken place. Masters or owners (as I understand it) have no inducement to prosecute. If no wages are due, there is nothing for them to receive; and if there are wages due, the master or owner is already in possession of them, and retains the whole; whereas, if he prosecuted, he would have to pay to the Exchequer any excess over the expense incurred by the desertion. There is otherwise no power to require them to account for such excess.