§ MR. J. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade, what instructions, if any, are issued to Her Britannic Majesty's Consuls at foreign ports with reference to Section 186 of the Merchant Shipping Act, I894, which provides that, where the services of any seamen terminate out of Her Majesty's dominions, the owners of ships shall provide them with a passage home; and whether such instructions are being acted upon by Her Britannic Majesty's Consuls at the ports of Hamburg, Rotterdam, and Antwerp; whether he is aware that the crew of the steamship Ettrick Dale, recently paid off at Hamburg, were compelled to pay their own passage home, and that similar cases have occurred in other foreign ports; and what steps, if any, does he intend to take to enforce the 186th Section of the Merchant Shipping Act; and, whether he is prepared to appoint a Committee to inquire into the subject of the engagement and discharge of British seamen in foreign ports?
§ MR. RITCHIE
The instructions to Consuls are to the effect that it is their duty to prevent, as far as possible, seamen from being discharged at ports abroad unless adequate employment or subsistence and passage home (in addition to full wages) be provided by the master. I have no reason to doubt that these instructions are obeyed at Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp, but it must be borne in mind that the Consul has no power to compel masters to comply with the law in this respect. If it is not complied with in any case—such as, for instance, in that cited by the hon. Member 31 —a remedy for the seaman is expressly provided by Section 186 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, under which the expenses of maintenance and passage home are recoverable as wages. The question of inquiry into the subject of the engagement and discharge of British seamen at foreign ports is receiving my careful consideration.