HC Deb 09 June 1898 vol 58 cc1160-1
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)

I beg to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will cause inquiry to be made of the Customs authorities as to why the seamen recently paid off at Portsmouth from H.M.S. Orlando, on her return from the Australian station, were subjected to the delay of having their bags and kits publicly searched on the railway station platform when about to proceed on leave with passes to their homes, instead of its being carried out in the dockyard, where the men could have been paraded for the purpose abreast of their ship if so desired; and whether he will give instructions which shall prevent the men of the Fleet who have been serving their county abroad from being subjected to such treatment in future?


Inquiries have been made through the Board of Customs into the circumstances attending the examination of the baggage of the seamen of H.M.S. Orlando on the recent occasion of their being paid off at Portsmouth, from which it appears that none of the bags and kits belonging to these seamen were publicly searched on the railway station platform, but that the examination took place on board or alongside of the vessel in the dockyard. About 30 small hand packages were examined at the railway station, but this examination was not made publicly on the platform, but, as usual, in one of the waiting-rooms, which the Customs authorities of the port have permission to use for such purposes. No delay was caused by this slight examination at the railway station.


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will make a representation to the Customs authorities with a view to the discontinuance by them of the system recently adopted of searching the bags and kits of seamen, on paying off from any of Her Majesty's ships, on the public platforms of railway stations; whether the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty will point out that such treatment is deeply resented by man-of-war's men, and whether their Lordships will offer to give instructions to facilitate all necessary searching of luggage in the dockyards or on board the ships of war, so as to avoid this exercise of authority under the existing law; and whether their Lordships are aware that the seamen recently paid oft from the flagship Orlando were thus treated on arrival at the railway station to proceed by train to their homes from Portsmouth, although the search could have been better carried out on the dockyard jetty?

THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)

I think the reply just given by my right honourable Friend practically answers this Question also.