§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON () Middlesbrough
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that the superintendents and deputy superintendents of mercantile marine offices in ports at which they are situate are permitting seamen to be engaged on British vessels as "able-seamen," without such persons having previously produced forms of discharge proving their title to be rated as "able-bodied" seamen in accordance with Section 12G of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894; whether he is aware that the letters "N. P." (meaning "not proven ") are generally endorsed upon the ship's articles, opposite their names; whether instructions have been issued to superintendents to act in this manner; and whether he can state any section of the Merchant Shipping Act which empowers the President of the Board of Trade, or any other official, to override the express stipulation of section 126 of the Merchant Shipping Act, which provides that a man shall not be entitled to be rated as able seaman unless he can prove not less than four years' sea service before the mast.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I can only repeat the answer I gave to a similar question two years ago—The superintendents of Mercantile Marine Offices are instructed before entering a seamen as an 'A. B.' in any agreement to ask for proof of his qualification to be so rated; and the Board of Trade have no reason to think that they neglect this duty. If proof is not given the letters ' N. P.' are placed against the seaman's name, but the Board of Trade arc advised that they have no power to decline to allow a man to be shipped as A. B. because he cannot prove the requisite service.There is no question of over-riding the provisions of the Act.