HC Deb 03 March 1896 vol 38 cc31-2

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade, whether his attention has been directed to the reports of a collision between the British steamship Ailsa and the French Transatlantic liner Bourgogne whether he is aware that the major portion of the crew of the Ailsa were foreigners, who immediately after the collision made a rush for the lifeboats, one of them striking a lady passenger and another kicking a lady in the side, and that they drew their knives and threatened the passengers; and afterwards took away the only available lifeboat, in spite of the protests of the captain; whether he will cause an immediate and full Inquiry to be held into the whole of the circumstances attending this collision; whether he can state if the crew of the Ailsa were competent seamen, able to speak and understand the English language; and, whether they were shipped in the United Kingdom or before Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at New York?

DR. TANNER (Cork, Co., Mid)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade—(1), whether his attention has been directed to the sinking of the steamer Ailsa, of Glasgow, off Fort Hamilton, U. S. A., by a French Transantlantic liner La Bourgogne, and to the misconduct of the crew of the former steamship who took possession by force of the only serviceable lifeboat belonging to the ship, and refused to answer their recall by the captain, despite the presence of many passengers, ladies and men, on board the Ailsa, (2), is he aware that the great majority of these sailors and firemen who refused to obey the captain's orders were foreigners, mainly Italians and Spaniards; and (3), if, considering the circumstances, the Board of Trade will advise the shipping of British and Irish sailors by passenger ocean going steamers?


My attention has been called to the Reports of the deplorable collision referred to in this Question and in that of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, which I will answer at the same time. The Board of Trade are not yet in possession of sufficient information to enable me to reply in detail to the several points referred to in the Questions, but every effort will be made to secure a searching investigation into the circumstances of the disaster. I may mention that the Ailsa is engaged in trading between foreign ports, and rarely, if ever, comes to this country, so that her crew on this occasion was, no doubt, engaged at a foreign port and not in the United Kingdom. In reply to the concluding paragraph of the question of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, I can only repeat that the whole subject of the manning of British Merchant Ships is under the consideration of a Committee.