HC Deb 19 February 1900 vol 79 c379

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that British steamers engaging crews in British home ports frequently engage crews composed of seven or eight different nationalities, most of whom are unable to understand or speak the English language; whether he is aware that, in consequence of this, foreigners sign articles of agreement which they are unable to understand; and whether he will cause copies of such agreements to be prepared and kept in each mercantile office in the principal European languages, to be read by foreigners unable to understand the articles of agreement when read over to them in English.


I am quite aware that many foreigners are engaged to serve as seamen on British ships, but I am advised that, as a general rule, they appear to have a sufficient knowledge of English to understand the nature of the agreement. The superintendents of the Mercantile Marine offices are instructed to see that the agreement is understood by all who sign it, and, when required, they avail themselves of the services of an interpreter. In these circumstances I do not think it necessary to adopt the suggestion contained in the concluding paragraph of the hon. Member's question.


Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to appoint a Committee to inquire into this, because I am satisfied—


Order, order! The hon. Member must confine himself to asking a question.


I am satisfied that the men do not understand the language.

[No answer was given.]