HC Deb 02 March 1900 vol 79 cc1601-27
Class I. £
Royal Palaces and Marlborough House 20,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens 40,000
Houses of Parliament Buildings 17,000
Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain 18,000
Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain 12,000
Diplomatic and Consular Buildings 12,000
Revenue Buildings 140,000
Public Buildings, Great Britain 135,000
Surveys of the United Kingdom 80,000
Harbours under the Board of Trade 2,000
Peterhead Harbour 6,000
Rates on Government Property 230,000
Public Works and Buildings, Ireland 70,000
Railways, Ireland 70,000
Class II.
United Kingdom and England:— £
House of Lords, Offices 3,000
House of Commons, Offices 13,000
Treasury and Subordinate Departments 39,000
Home Office 50,000
Foreign Office 30,000
Colonial Office 23,000
Privy Council Office, etc. 5,000
Board of Trade 60,000
Mercantile Marine Services 30,000
Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade 3
Board of Agriculture 75,000
Charity Commission 16,000
Civil Service Commission 18,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 24,000
Friendly Societies Registry 2,200
Local Government Board 80,000
Lunacy Commission 5,000
Mint (including Coinage) 10
National Debt Office 6,000
Public Record Office 11,000
Public Works Loan Commission 10
Registrar General's Office 17,000
Stationery and Printing 250,000
Woods, Forests, &c, Office of 8,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 23,000
Secret Service 40,000
Secretary for Scotland 25,500
Fishery Board 8,000
Lunacy Commission 2,500
Registrar General's Office 2,000
Local Government Board 4,000
Lord Lieutenant's Household 2,000
Chief Secretary and Subordinate Departments 16,000
Department of Agriculture 65,000
Charitable Donations and Bequests Office 1,000
Local Government Board 22,000
Public Record Office 2,000
Public Works Office 16,000
Registrar General's Office 7,000
Valuation and Boundary Survey 6,000
Class III.
United Kingdom and England:—
Law Charges 40,000
Miscellaneous Legal Expenses 27,000
Supreme Court of Judicature 140,000
Land Registry 14,000
County Courts 14,000
Police, England and Wales 22,000
Prisons, England and the Colonies 260,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain 140,000
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum 18,000
Law Charges and Courts of Law 30,000
Register House, Edinburgh 15,000
Crofters Commission 2,000
Prisons, Scotland 35,000
Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions 35,000
Supreme Court of Judicature, and other Legal Departments 45,000
Land Commission 50,000
County Court Officers, &c. 46,000
Dublin Metropolitan Police 40,000
Royal Irish Constabulary 600,000
Prisons, Ireland 45,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools 55,500
Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum 3,500
Class IV.
United Kingdom and England:—
Hoard of Education 4,000,000
British Museum 80,000
National Gallery 9,000
National Portrait Gallery 3,000
Wallace Collection 4,000
Scientific Investigation, &c, United Kingdom 15,000
Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales 38,000
London University 5
Public Education 630,000
National Gallery 1,400
Public Education 600,000
Endowed Schools Commissioners 400
National Gallery 1,400
Queen's Colleges 2,500
Class V.
Diplomatic and Consular Services 220,000
Uganda, Central and East Africa Protectorates and Uganda Railway 300,000
Colonial Services 230,000
Cyprus, Grant in Aid 31,000
Subsidies to Telegraph Companies 38,000
Class VI.
Superannuation and Retired Allowances 280,000
Merchant Seamen's Fund Pensions, etc. 3,000
Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances 1,000
Hospitals and Charities, Ireland 17,000
Class VII.
Temporary Commissions 8,072
Miscellaneous Expenses 8,000
Paris Exhibition, 1900 29,000
Total for Civil Services £10,086,000
Customs 350,000
Inland Revenue 830,000
Post Office 3,600,000
Post Office Packet Service 210,000
Post Office Telegraphs 1,550,000
Total for Revenue Departments £6,540,000
Grand Total £16,626,000"

Resolution read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."


desired to call attention to the serious state of affairs existing in the Moray Firth owing to foreign trawlers trawling in these waters. No sooner had British trawlers been prohibited from trawling there than there was a considerable increase of foreigners. No less than fifty-five foreign trawlers were seen in the Firth last year by the Fishery Board cruisers, and several of them were seen on various occasions. The object of the bye-law made by the Scottish Fishery Board was to keep out trawlers, and to preserve the rich fishing banks of the Moray Firth. He thought steps ought to be taken by the Foreign Office to close the Firth against foreign trawlers. This matter had been brought to the attention of the authorities time after time, hut nothing had been done, and the result was that the fisheries were being ruined. He suggested legislation which should exclude all trawlers. He also suggested that there should be better facilities for storage of Scotch herrings at St. Petersburg, and better accommodation at the new port for landing herrings. He deplored the fact that although a Hydrographical Conference met last summer to inquire into the whole question of the fisheries, and to suggest means to solve the difficulty, no report had yet been issued. It had always been supposed that this country was taking the lead in the matter, and it was somewhat surprising to find that that was not the fact. Having regard to the fact that the deliberations of the conference were concluded last summer, it was quite time that a report was issued. Another matter to which he desired to draw attention was with respect to the British North Borneo Company. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had stated that there had been certain correspondence between the company and Mat Salleh. That correspondence ought to be placed upon the Table of the House, so that the House might ascertain whether Mat Salleh had been treated fairly by the company. He understood with regard to Malta that in fifteen years from last March the Italian language would not be allowed in the law courts, and that English was to be the official language. Such a change was opposed by all sections of the Maltese, who had a right to expect that the ordinance passed by William IV. should be continued, and that the language which had been the official language for nine centuries should not he taken away. He hoped the Government would not create another Ireland in Malta. He desired also to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to a serious state of things on the coast of Scotland, where trawlers carried on their work with covered lights. No doubt there were penalties for this offence, but they were not sufficiently heavy. They should he made infinitely heavier, in order to put a stop to this robbery of the seas. No one knew how many fishing boats had been run down by this practice. The right hon. Gentleman had also promised that liberal concessions would be made to the poorer districts of the Highlands of Scotland in the matter of light railways, but up to the present nothing had been done. He asked that Lemberg lights should be provided on the coast of Ross-shire and Sutherlandshire, and at dangerous places in the Western Islands. What between the Board of Trade, Trinity House, and the Northern Lighthouse Board it seemed as if absolutely nothing could be done. The sale of Crown salmon rights in Scotland ought to be stopped. The supply of salmon was decreasing, and more should be done in the way of erecting salmon ladders, as in Norway and Sweden, to allow the salmon to get higher up the rivers and into the inland lochs. He was sorry that the Secretary for Scotland was not in this House. The Lord Advocate had his own legal department to attend to, and much of his time was occupied in Parliament Square, Edinburgh. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman did what he could, but he had too much legal work. The Secretary for Scotland ought to be in this House, in order that the Scotch Members might be in direct communication with him. As to the last deer forest return, the Scottish Office admitted that it was inaccurate. There ought to be no difficulty in obtaining accurate statistics of the area of deer forests in the Highlands. He trusted the Lord Advocate would impress on the Secretary for Scotland the need for more attention to Highland matters. The Secretary for Scotland should not be in the miserable plight of being unable to obtain accurate information in regard to the deer forest area. There must be something radically wrong. He also wished the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury would arrange for a better mail service between Stornoway and the mainland.

* MR. HAVELOOK WILSON () Middlesbrough

When I venture to bring shipping questions under the notice of Parliament the President of the Board of Trade unfortunately loses his temper and gives my statements a flat contradiction. I am going to prove to-night that the right hon. Gentleman ought to be more careful in giving flat contradictions to Members of the House. Last year I made a charge in regard to the manner in which the business of the Consular Office in Now York was carried on. I said that in that office a state of affairs existed which was a disgrace; that seamen were plundered by crimps, and that shipowners shared in the spoil. The right hon. Gentleman replied that Her Majesty's Consul at Now York had stated in a despatch that there was no foundation for the statement I had made. Now, I have a letter dated 10th April, 1895, which Her Majesty's Consul sent to the Superintendent of the Mercantile Office, Mr. Frederick Wood, Dock Street, London, in regard to a complaint by Thomas O'Brien, who had been charged by the crimps 12 dollars for engagement, and at the termination of the voyage he had been swindled out of 16 dollars more by the captain for the privilege of leaving work. The Consul replied— It is a matter of common repute that they pay bonuses to shipowners for the privilege of supplying crews, and there can be no doubt that they recoup themselves by levying fees from the sailors for whom they procure employment. That letter was signed "C. O. Sanderson." I would like to know on what ground the right. hon. Gentleman denied my statement. If the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the reports in regard to the desertions of seamen he would have found that it was stated deliberately that the reason why seamen were charged these enormous fees for employment was because' a large number of shipowners had entered into contracts with the crimps to supply the men. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman thought this was a trifle, but I will tell him what I mean. In New York every year then; are engaged on British ships over 100,000 men, and these have to pay on an average six dollars, or a total of 600,000 dollars. £120,000 is a very big sum to take out of the pockets of these sailors for the privilege of going to work. But when they go to sea they have to pay larger sums to the captains for the privilege of being released from their work; so that in one port alone in the United States British seamen have to pay close on a quarter of a million of money out of their wages. Hon. Members who represent seaport constituencies ought to be in their places in the House to expose and resist this swindle. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said that they had been in correspondence with the Consul at New York, and that they were doing all they could to stop the practice, but it is two years since I brought the matter under the notice of the House of Commons, and surely it could not take the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade that time to rectify such a matter? All they have got to do is to give definite instructions to Her Majesty's Consuls not to permit shipping agents, crimps and loafers to go into the Consular offices at the time men were being paid off. If the sailors had votes this matter would have been very differently treated. The other night I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the section of the Act which dealt with the rating of able seamen, and I asked the question why the Board of Trade allowed men to be signed on articles and agreements when they were unable to produce certificates showing that they had served four years before the mast. The light hon. Gentleman said that that was no hardship to the men, but I hold that it is a very serious hardship to real able seamen if men were engaged who could not do the work. The right hon. Gentleman said a few nights ago that they had no power to refuse to put men on the articles of agreement as A. B.s if the captain so desired. I say that this section says altogether different from that. It says distinctly that a man shall not be entitled to the rating of A. B. unless he can prove four years sea service before the mast, and if the Board of Trade wish to stand on their rights all they have to do is to say to the shipowner, or captain, or anyone else who engages the men as A. B.s, that unless the men are able to prove four years sea service they cannot be entered as A. B.s. They may be taken on as boys, or ordinary seamen, or stewards, or carpenters, but they cannot be given the rating of A. B. unless they are able to prove their sea service in accordance with the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. The right hon. Gentleman has not paid any attention to this section, and I anticipate that when he gets up to reply he will simply ignore the question altogether. That, however, will not prevent me endeavouring to press it home, and I intend to keep on pressing it until I get some satisfaction. I have consulted a learned counsel with regard to this section, and he tells me distinctly that the Board of Trade have no right whatever to issue instructions to superintendents to give men the rating of A. B. when they are not able to prove their sea service. I trust that the President of the Board will reconsider his decision in this matter, and that he will endeavour to carry out the law. I do not want any special privileges for sailors and firemen. I do not ask for that at all. I only ask for common justice. I say that if an Act of Parliament is passed for the benefit of seamen, we have a right to see that that Act of Parliament is carried out in a proper manner. I know there is no fine or penalty provided under this section. But still it is within the power of the Board of Trade to refuse to enter a man as A. B. unless he is able to prove the proper period of sea service. Now. I come to the question of accommodation on board ship. The right hon. Gentleman the other night, in reply to statements which I made as to the accommodation provided for lascars, said I was pressing this matter, not for the benefit of the lascars, but with the view of driving them out of British ships altogether. There may be some truth in that statement. I know the lascars would not be employed on British ships were it not for the fact that their labour is cheap, and that shipowners can impose upon them by robbing them of their proper accommodation. Of course, having the right to engage these lascars, they are naturally displacing British labour, and we see how serious this matter is when we bear in mind that whereas in 1860 there were but 350 lascars employed, there are now something like 31,000 on British ships. Ship- ping companies which formerly employed only white labour are now going in for lascar labour, in order that they may compete with the P. & O. Company and the British India Company, so that it may eventually be the case that the whole of our British ships will be manned by lascars. The Board of Trade by their inaction are helping them in the matter. There is another reason why I. object to these lascars being used other than that they are replacing British seamen. We have complained for a long while about the accommodation for seamen on board British ships. A. Royal Commission which sat in the year 1891 recommended an alteration of the law in this respect. It recommended that the accommodation should be increased from 72 cubic feet to 120. But there is no Government that has been good enough to alter the law in that direction. If it is possible for shipping companies to escape providing proper accommodation by employing lascars, naturally they will employ coolie labour, and British seamen will not be able to get employment at all.! submit, therefore, I have a right to insist that if coolie or black labour is to be employed in the place of British seamen for the sake of cheapness, they shall not be sweated by the shipowners, and shall be worked only under fair conditions. The right hon. Gentleman went on to contend that lascars did not require the same amount of accommodation as white men. Just fancy that from the Imperial Government from a Government which talks so largely about the British Empire and the "sons of the Empire." Fancy the right hon. Gentleman getting up in the House of Commons to say that some of the sons of the Empire do not require much accommodation. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a petition sent by these lascars to Her Majesty the Queen. He said that they had petitioned to be left severely alone, and that they were quite happy and contented with the accommodation provided for them by the P. and O. Company I do not believe that the lascars ever wrote that petition. I know they did not. It was prepared for them by some of the agents of the P. and O. Company. I remember one passage in the petition in which they are made to say, "We like to huddle together in our beloved Indian fashion." That may be very nice for the lascars in the open air in India, but when they come to this country we have no right to allow them to huddle together in this manner to the danger of the health of the public at large. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take a trip one night to the Victoria and Albert Docks, and to see these lascars huddled together on the P. and O. boats. Let him see how they are crowded together in their dens and dungeons. However the right hon. Gentleman may endeavour to justify his assertion that the lascars do not require the same accommodation as white men. I am bound to say that I do not care what his opinion may be. for I have the law on me side and that is good enough for me. The law says that British seamen shall have twelve superficial feet and seventy-two cubic feet allotted to each of them, and if any shipping company or person commits a breach of that law he is liable to a fine of £25 for each offence. I asked him a question the other day as to a ship called the "Australia," on which the men each had only nine superficial feet instead of twelve. I inquired if the right hon. Gentleman would take action. He declines to do so. and he says that there are other mutters which ought to be taken into consideration. Why does he show this great consideration for the P. and 0. Company.' Why this reluctance on the part of the Government to compel this company to obey the law? They get £100,000 a year from the Government in the form of a subsidy for carrying mails and troops, and yet, although they get this huge subsidy, there is reluctance on the part of the Government and of the President of the Board of Trade to enforce the law. I say I have some ground of complaint, and that the inhabitants of the East-end of London also have some grounds of complaint against the Government in this matter. Quite a large number of these natives die from cholera and other Asiatic diseases, and by and by we shall have cholera brought into this country, and we shall be able to fasten the responsibility for that on the shoulders of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, because he will not insist on the P. and O. Company providing these men with proper accommodation. Disease may be brought into our land by reason of that failure of duty, and thousands of people may die in consequence. There are I several other matters in connection with the Board of Trade which I am not satisfied with. There is the question of foreigners engaged on British ships. I know there are certain foreigners we are hound to employ, because, at the present time, unfortunately, the supply of British seamen is not sufficient to man the whole of our ships. But there is no reason why we should employ foreigners who are not seamen. The fact that they are not seamen and are not competent to he seamen acts to the disadvantage of resident foreigners in this country and of British seamen. I was making inquiries the other day as to why so many young Swedes and Germans were signed on on our ships at Continental ports; and I was told by a very intelligent German that the reason was this, that in their own country's ships no man can engage as A. B. unless he has served four years at sea, and he must be qualified to do his work. It has to be entered in his discharge and engagement hook that he is a competent A. B., and he cannot engage on a German ship unless he is able to produce that hook. The same law applies in Holland and Belgium. The result is that these young foreigners, after serving about twelve months in their own country's ships as boys, make their way to other ports on the Continent, where British ships are to he found, and partly to avoid conscription, I admit—there they engage on hoard British ships as able-bodied seamen, although they have only done twelve months sea service and, of course, are not competent men at all.


Does the hon. Member intend to suggest that under the present law that practice could be stopped by the Board of Trade?


Yes, Mr. Speaker.


If the hon. Member is right in that contention, he is in order.


I contend that the power exists under Section 126 of the Merchant Shipping Act, which provides that a seaman shall not he entitled to the rating of able-bodied seaman unless he has been at sea four years. I say under that section the President of the Board of Trade can prevent the employment of these young foreigners.


The hon. Member must confine himself to the question of allowing incompetent seamen to be shipped as able-bodied seamen. At present he seems to be going into the question of allowing foreigners generally to be shipped.


I am complaining that these foreign seamen are allowed to get engagements on British ships under circumstances which amount to an evasion of the law, because they are not competent men and do not comply with the Act of Parliament, and the Board of Trade and the Consuls allow them to sign on British ships as able-bodied seamen when they are not competent to sign on as such, according to the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act. That is not the only thing I have to complain of. In regard to the articles of agreement the right hon. Gentleman has made some slight concession. He has promised that articles of agreement shall be translated into a number of European languages, so that when foreigners who cannot understand our language are being engaged on board British ships a copy of the articles of agreement in their own language shall be handed to them to read. But it may so happen that they may not be able to read, and what I want to insist on is that these articles of agreement shall be read out to the men so that every man may thoroughly understand what he is signing. Surely the Board of Trade can do something in this matter. I believe that if the Board of Trade would only insist that wherever crews of this kind are being engaged, the captain should be compelled to find competent interpreters to interpret the articles to each seaman in his own language it would be found that the trouble was so great that the experience would in the future be avoided, and British seamen would be employed. I thoroughly understand why it is that these foreigners are preferred to Englishmen. It is a fact, that foreigners who have been resident in England for any length of time, and who can speak the English language fluently, very often find that they have just as much difficulty in getting employment as the Britisher, for the officer says to them, "You know too much." It is not a good tiling to know too much on board a ship, more especially when the articles of agreement are being read out. The captains do not want the men to understand too much; the less they understand, in fact, the better, so that when settling day comes the advantage will be all on one side. It is for that reason that many captains and owners prefer foreigners who cannot speak English. Another matter of which! have to complain is their failure to pay the passage home of seamen discharged at foreign ports. Under the 186th Section owners are directed to pay all the expenses of sending seamen home to the United Kingdom when they are discharged at foreign ports. Now, it ought to be the duty of the Consuls, when men are being discharged at their offices, to see that this section is carried out, The section says that, Masters shall, besides paying the wages to which the seaman or apprentice is entitled, either provide him with adequate employment on hoard some other British ship bound to the port in Her Majesty's dominions at which he was originally shipped, or to a port in the United Kingdom agreed to by the seaman, or furnish the means of sending him back to some such port, or provide him with a passage home, or deposit with the Consular Office such a sum of money as is by the office or merchant deemed sufficient to defray the expense of maintenance and passage home."' I submit that under that section the responsibility rests upon the Consul, when a captain is discharging his crew in a foreign port, to say to that captain, "You must deposit in this office sufficient to pay the man's expenses to the port at which he was engaged, and also his maintenance at so much per day, so as to provide him with keep." Now, I find that when crews are being discharged before the Consul at Rotterdam or Antwerp, if a man asks to be sent home to his port of engagement Her Majesty's consul, instead of insisting upon the captain depositing an amount of money sufficient to provide for the maintenance and passage of the sailor, tells the captain to deposit ten shillings, which is the exact boat fare from Rotterdam to Harwich. And then when the man arrives at Harwich he has to pay his train expenses to Newcastle or Cardiff out of his wages, which may only be a small amount. If subsequently he tries to recover his fare—I do wish the right hon. Gentleman would give some attention to what I am saying, for I am certain he cannot reply without knowing what I am talking about I say that when the man avails himself of this section to claim his fare in a court of law, the owner of the ship produces the agreement with the endorsement of the Consul, and that shuts the man out of court altogether. The Court says, "The Consul said ten shillings was enough." That is treated as sufficient answer to the claim, and the man is prevented getting all he is entitled to. I have been in correspondence with the Board of Trade on this matter. I have asked the Board of Trade if they cannot see their way clear to advise consuls to insist upon payment of the full fare with maintenance. If they cannot do that, surely they could advise Consuls to leave it an entirely open question, so that if the man chooses to claim his full fare in a court of law he may not be faced with the endorsement of the Consul on the articles of agreement. Let it be left open to the man to settle the matter with the shipowner in a court of law when he arrives in the United Kingdom. Can it be denied that that is a fair proposal to make to the Board of Trade? If the Board of Trade will not do their duty then leave it open to other people to do it for them. I think I have kept the House a sufficient time, although I contend that I am perfectly justified in making these complaints, seeing that seamen are not able to come to this House and make the complaints for themselves. As their representative it is my duty to avail myself of every opportunity that I can get, and to keep on knocking at the door of this House of Commons until the Government do some thing in the direction of improving the conditions under which seamen live and labour. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are anxious to do all they can for "poor Jack." I wish they would help him to save the £120,000 which he is swindled out of in New York every year. If they will do that then we will begin to see in the right hon. Gentleman a sweet little cherub sitting up aloft looking after the interests of poor Jack, and the President of the Board of Trade will earn the gratitude and respect of the whole of the seamen of this country.


As regards the system of crimping as practised in New York and other American ports I think we are entitled to a definite reply from the Government. I have read very carefully a volume detailing the complaints of British subjects in South Africa which more or less brought about the war, but I have not read in that volume anything to compare for a moment with what I have read in the volume published by the Government with reference to the desertions of seamen in foreign ports. If what the Consuls state in that volume is true—if half of it is true—I say it is the duty of the Government to interfere, and to prevent this system which is robbing seamen of their wages. In South Africa millionaires complained, but these are the complaints of working men. I have one particular case which I wish to put before the President of the Board of Trade. A man named McDonnell, who resides in the constituency I have the honour to represent, and who is an inteligent working man, met with an accident in New York, and had to be confined in one of the hospitals. He was left penniless, and was compelled to work his passage home, and he told me that before he could obtain employment in an English ship he had to sign for thirty dollars, out of which the boarding master deducted twenty dollars, and he only earned ten dollars for work for which he should have obtained thirty dollars. I maintain it is the duty of the Foreign Office to protect these helpless men, and to see that no one comes between them and the captain of the ship. I say it is the duty of the Government to communicate with the Government of the united States on this matter. If a system existed in this country under which foreign seamen were subjected to these deductions, then I think the Government would step in and protect these men from being robbed. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough stated that in New York alone £140,000 a year is deducted from seamen's wages by these crimps. It is a scandal, and ought not to be allowed to continue. It is quite evident that the President of the Board of Trade is callous in this matter, but I would ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affair's, who I think is a very reasonable man, whether' such a system should be allowed to continue without protest. If the Government are not prepared to deal with it, then the agitation must go on, and I hope the sense of justice of hon. Gentlemen opposite will lead them to support the hon. Member for Middlesbrough in demanding justice and protection for these men.

MR. MADDISON () Sheffield, Brightside

I feel this question is of such importance that I must trespass on the time of the House in discussing it. The hon. Member for Middlesborough is a very persistent man, and he has a very great and sacred cause to defend. I have spent most of my life in a seaport. I have been constantly brought into contact with seamen, and I venture to say there is no class in the community who render greater services to the Empire than the merchant seamen of this country, and no class who have benefited less by the prosperity of the country. Looking at these and other considerations I believe we have a good case, and I am sure the President of the Board of Trade will realise that anything that can be done to improve the lot of our seamen ought to be done. I was very sorry to hear the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the other night. He discovered allegations that were never intended, because no one had disparaged Mr. Sanderson, and he went on to say that he knew nothing about those illegalities. What are the facts? The shipping office in New York is not in the same building as the Consular office, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman could only know if he made definite inquiries. But my hon. friend, as a responsible Member of this House, has said that he himself during a period of four months continually witnessed scenes which the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs admitted were, if true, very shameful. His attitude did encourage me more than that of the President of the Board of Trade. Our ease does not rest on mere hearsay. In the report on the desertion of seamen which was presented to the House on the motion of the gallant Admiral opposite—who I am surprised does not help the mercantile seamen as assiduously as he helps the bluejacket and the marine—I find that the Consul at Philadelphia states that the blood-money is often as high as twenty dollar's, which is deducted from the seaman's advance. Then the Consul at Portland, Oregon, says— The manner of engaging has always some bearing on that of desertions —I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman understands the gravity of the desertions of British seamen— because it is on that that crimps thrive. I have often found it difficult to induce masters of British vessels to engage independent seamen requiring in many cases no advances, and who were outside crimps' houses. If they did so the boarding-house keepers would refuse to furnish the rest of the crew. Talk about paramountey, but the crimp is paramount here. Then the Consul goes on— Some time ago the Mariners' Home, a respectable institution, had to be closed because British shipmasters preferred to patronise crimps, and would not take seamen from the Home. I appeal to the House whether my hon. friend the Member for Middlesbrough is not quite justified in bringing this matter forward, even at this late hour, in the absence of any satisfactory reply or any clear indication that the two Departments to whom we have appealed are doing anything. I find that the Acting Consul General at San Francisco slates that there has been a decrease in desertions at that port, which— is attributed in a great measure to the contract system for supplying seamen to British ships in force here for two or three years. Under this system the iniquitous charge of bonus or blood-money for supplying seamen, principally levied by boarding-house proprietors, has been abolished, and the inducement to seamen to desert is not so great as formerly. I submit that this is a long-standing and grievous evil, which is sapping the moral and physical strength of the mercantile marine. We not only present the evil, but we maintain that it can be very easily remedied. I do not say that we can have a system that will prevent seamen from deserting if they have sufficient justification. I would be very sorry to see that instinct die out. The President of the Board of Trade seems to have come to the conclusion that everything my hon. friend brings up is tainted, and not to be taken notice of. But here we have the testimony of competent officials which is not tainted. Consul Laidlow supplies the remedy. He says— A comprehensive Consular Convention should be concluded with the United States, giving the same exclusive jurisdiction now enjoyed by French and German Consuls, including power to call on the local authorities for necessary assistance. I ask why the Government have not acted on that suggestion. The French and Gorman Governments, who have not a quarter of the interest that we have in the mercantile marine, have seen the evil and have taken steps to remedy it. in conclusion, I would appeal to the President of the Board of Trade and to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to stop this system of crimping. I am not unreasonable. I know my hon. friend in his zeal brings a whole catalogue of grievances forward, but that is no reason why attention should not be given to one particular grievance which stands out. With reference to lascars, the right hon. Gentleman, in referring to my hon. friend's speech, made a retort which was justified. He told my hon. friend that his desire was not so much to benefit the lascars as to get rid of them. I do not see why foreigners should be excluded from British ships any more than they are excluded from British workshops. I would resist that most strenuously. I only know men, not nationalities. However, I would not wish to see ships manned with lascars, because they are not equal to British seamen: but as long as they sail under the British flag they come under the Imperial law, and they should have the full benefit of it. The right hon. Gentleman said that the lascars had presented a petition, in which they prayed not to have their beloved Indian fashion interfered with. Does the right hon. Gentleman, as an experienced politician, really believe that that was a genuine petition? He knows very well that these men would sign a petition even to have their wages reduced if the same steps were taken to induce them. The Government allow the P. and 0. Company to employ this inferior labour not for the good of the community, not for the good of the lascars, but for the company's own gain; and this is the Government that want to keep out pauper aliens! I cannot see the consistency or the justice of trying to help the wretched workmen of the East End of London by keeping out pauper aliens, and at the same time encouraging rich shipping companies to employ lascar labour.


The three hon. Members who have spoken last have referred to a subject which is only remotely connected with the Department which I have the honour to represent. It must be obvious that what these three hon. Members have asked is considerably beyond what is in the power of the Government to perform. What the Government is performing is a very small modicum of what they desire. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the paper from which extracts have been read was not ordered by the House, but was published by my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade on Reports supplied by the Foreign Office in order that the subject should be brought before the public. The Board of Trade pressed the Foreign Office to get the information in order that it might be placed before the shipowners of this country, and the Board of Trade is constantly pressing this subject on the attention of shipowners who can do most in the matter. There has been no remissness on the part of the British Consuls, nor any defect in the British law. If the practice complained of could be stopped by British consuls it would be stopped. The practice can only be checked by the British Consuls in their own offices, but there is nothing whatever to prevent the system, which is undoubtedly an abuse, being carried on immediately outside these offices in New York and other ports. The main fact remains that we are dealing with a foreign country, and that we cannot deal with these matters by a single piece of legislation in this House.


You can make representations to the United States Government.


Constant representations have been made by Her Majesty's Government on this subject, but the point I was going to make is that in order to give effect to these representations legislation would be necessary by the different States of America which it is not in the power of the United States Government to bring into being. The law in Portland might be different from the law in New York, and I would urge that we should not be pressed to give an undertaking which it is not in our power to carry out. Her Majesty's Government can do only two things. They can bring the facts to light and endeavour to preserve order in their own shipping offices. Those who can assist most are the shipping masters who engage the men, and I can assure hon. Gentlemen that the Chamber of Shipping can assist to a very large extent in this matter. I do not wish hon. Gentlemen to carry away the idea that the Government are in the slightest degree remiss about this matter. We desire that the abuse should be remedied. The Board of Trade has been most active throughout with regard to it, and, so far as the Foreign Office can support them, though it can only be in a modified form, we are perfectly ready to give the best attention to the subject. There is one thing we cannot do—we cannot amend the laws of the United States, nor, so far as I am aware, can the United States Government, in consequence of any representations from this side of the water, exercise the same authority throughout all the States as can be exercised by this House over the United Kingdom. My light hon. friend informs me that in the course of the last few weeks he has been taking steps in the matter, and I think hon. Members would do well to wait and see whether something effective cannot be done in the direction they desire.


The right hon. Gentleman has not replied with reference to the Consular Convention mentioned by Mr. Laidlow.


We will give our best attention to the subject, but I cannot be expected to promise more than we may be able to perform. I would ask the hon. Member to exercise patience in the matter. With regard to the variety of questions put to me by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty, we will endeavour to obtain the observance of the local laws by trawlers in the Moray Firth, but to give an undertaking such as he desires would open up a very large question connected with the fishing industry.


I asked for information as to the progress of storage accommodation.


I mentioned last year that as a result of representations by Her Majesty's Government the accommodation was considerably increased, and if it is not now sufficient it is not for want of pressure on our part. He also asked me to give a pledge that certain Papers with reference to North Borneo should be laid before the House. I am not aware of any correspondence on the subject which has not been given to the House. As to the question of the use of the Maltese language in the police-courts of Malta I can only tell the hon. Member what I told him before.


I desire to say that I entirely sympathise with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, and will support him with my vote. He knows what he is talking about, and the British seaman ought to feel grateful to him for the ability with which he has championed his case before the House. Surely the Government have some machinery at their disposal which would enable them to get information on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government cannot make laws for the United States, but they can set their own house in order. They might set to work at once by means of a Royal Commission and get the facts, and if it is proved that the statements of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough are true, they could then approach the American Government. It is notorious that sailors suffer from these grievances, and it appears an extraordinary thing to me that the Government should treat them so lightly. It is not by treating sailors in this manner that the youth of the country can be induced to enter the mercantile service. This is in a sense an Irish question, for any question that concerns the working classes always appeals to the Irish Members, and when a reasonable and just case is made out we are always ready to support it. If my hon. friend goes to a division, as I hope he will, I shall be very glad indeed to vote with him.


It is unfortunate that a matter of this importance should come forward at such a late hour, and I think it would be a better practice if Report of Supply could be brought forward at such a time as would enable matters to be conveniently discussed. I may be asked why I interfere in this debate. My reason is rather a practical one. Several years ago, before I entered the House, I myself was for several years in the mercantile marine, and I sailed on a British ship as an apprentice. I lived practically with the men, and spent most of my time in the forecastle, and took every opportunity of observing as closely as I could the circumstances under which sailors in the mercantile marine lived; and nothing has ever succeeded in effacing from my mind the impression which I then formed of the disagreeable conditions under which they live. I remember at that time comparing most unfavourably the conditions under which British sailors lived with the conditions under which men in the same position in the American mercantile marine lived, the latter being in every respect infinitely superior. That is one reason why I am interested in this matter. The second reason is that a great many sailors in the mercantile marine are Irishmen. Hon. Gentlemen have referred to the circumstances under which mercantile sailors are engaged and discharged in foreign ports. We have heard of the proceedings of the crimps in New York, but I go further than the hon. Member who raised this debate. I think that there should be a strict inquiry, not only into the circumstances connected with the discharge and engagement of sailors in foreign ports and in this country, but also into the circumstances connected with their lives on board ship. With reference to the foreign part of the question I must say that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade did not display that sympathy which we have a right to expect from him. Apparently the President of the Board of Trade is not prepared to deal with this question in that spirit of sympathy which it deserves. Many people in this country look upon the subject of the manning of the mercantile marine as one of vital importance, and I do not think it should be suggested to be any disparagement of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough that he represents the interests of merchant sailors. I have often wished that we had in this House a man to deal with these matters like Mr. Clark Russell, who has taken up so ably the question of the mercantile marine. We want someone like him to second the efforts of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough. I consider that the answer of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs is quite unsatisfactory, but I am not prepared to blame him. It is quite evident to me that he has not grasped this question at all. The attitude of the President of the Board of Trade is certainly not particu- larly sympathetic, but neither he nor the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, nor the Government generally, appear to have got the necessary information to allow them to realise the importance of the question. I have a suggestion to make. This is not a very busy session, we have no great legislative programme to deal with, and I would suggest to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough and his friends that they might well ask the Government to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the whole circumstances under which men are engaged and work in the mercantile marine. An announcement that such a Committee was to be appointed would give intense satisfaction to large masses of people in this country. I remember well the time when Mr. Samuel Plimsoll raised his agitation in this House. I was not a Member then, but I have a vivid recollection, seated as I was in the Strangers' Gallery, of seeing him expelled from the House, and of noticing his wife drop the speech which he wished to make on behalf of merchant seamen from the Ladies' Gallery into the Reporters' Gallery. Everybody now acknowledges that Mr. Samuel Plimsoll performed a service of the greatest possible benefit, and his memory is revered as that of one of the greatest humanitarians of the age. I am glad to see the hon. Members for Middlesbrough, Stockton, and the Brightside Division of Sheffield following in his steps Although coffin ships may not be sent to sea as they were before the Plimsoll line was established, I venture to assert that the conditions under which our merchant sailors are compelled to live are such as to disgust the minds of impartial men. Reference has been made to the employment of lascars by the P. and 0. and other companies. I do not know whether it would be in order for me, at this stage, to go into that question. In any case it is too late to do so to-night, so I will merely say this, that in my opinion, and in the opinion of many Irish seamen, it is not fair that large and wealthy ship-owning companies, which draw from the taxpayers of the country enormous sums of money every year, in the form of subsidies for mail contracts, should employ cheap black labour in the place of British and Irish seamen, many of whom are to be found eager and willing to ship on reasonable terms. Such a practice is highly detrimental to the interests of this country. No doubt these lascars are taken on because they accept low wages, but it should not be forgotten that in times of stress, trial, and crisis they would be found of far less value than Irish or British seamen should their services be required. I have repeatedly travelled by the boats of one of these companies between this country and Australia, and I know that, among many people, there is a preference for travelling by the Orient Steam Company, because their vessels are manned by British, Irish, and colonial sailors, while the P. and O. Company's boats are largely manned by lascars. If any hon. Member representing a maritime constituency thinks that my observations are not justified, I am ready to go down with him and discuss the matter with his constituents, and I venture to think he will find that they agree substantially in all I have said. I admire the hon. Member for Middlesbrough for sticking to this question. I have still a lively recollection of the miserable pigsties and dens in which sailors are forced to live on ships. They hardly have room to lie down. With all respect, I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to give further consideration to the case of these men, than whom are to be found no class more unfairly treated and more underpaid. I do not ask him to say definitely forthwith whether he will agree to the appointment of a Select Committee, should one be moved for; I know he must first consult his colleagues; but I do think this is a matter which should engage the careful attention of the Government.

SIR WILFRID LAWSON (, Cockormouth) Cumberland

I am not following with another speech, but I wish to call the attention of the Home Secretary to something which has occurred to-night, and to explain the circumstances. A meeting was announced to be held in Exeter Hall to-night, the object being to stop the war. It was quite an orderly meeting, but I suppose it will not stop the war. In consequence of the announcement that the meeting would be held, the following notice appeared in an evening paper, and I believe it was also published on placards. But I am not quite certain on that point. I think the House will see, however, that it is a distinct incitement to, I will not say riot, but to disorderly conduct Pro-Boers in Exeter Hall. Stop the War meeting to-night. Ought not to be allowed to meet and thus publicly condemn the war. People who rejoiced exceedingly last night can maintain their enthusiasm by going to Exeter Hall to-night and showing the pro-Boers that their sentiments are not popular. I believe that these sentiments are not popular with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but then they show it in a proper way, and they do not attack me. [An HON. MEMBER: We ought to do so.] We were all orderly at Exeter Hall. I was there. Soon after we had commenced the meeting, however, a tremendous noise was heard, the door was forced open, in spite of our attempts to keep it closed, and a number of men rushed into the room shouting and yelling and waving the Union Jack, an emblem which I, as a patriotic Englishman, am very sorry to see so often used as an implement of disorder. Well, this body of assailants was repulsed. I am happy to say we were strong enough to do that. The meeting again proceeded in an orderly manner for fifteen or twenty minutes, when news came up that there was a violent contest going on on the stairs, that it would not be safe to continue, and that the best way would be to conclude the meeting. We decided to do so, and the question then was how to get home. Just as we had decided to break up the meeting fresh news came that our forces had rallied and again repulsed the enemy. The result was that we managed to hold the meeting quite decently. It was a ticket meeting, paid for with our own money. After another interval we were again disturbed by hideous shouts and roars outside, but at the end of two hours we concluded our meeting. My hon. friends who were with me managed to get out by a side door, which was kindly opened for us; we got into a four-wheeled cab, and told the driver to take us by the most unfrequented ways to this House, which we reached in safety. I bring this before the House because I am informed that when a message was sent to the police they did not seem at all inclined to come and keep order. At all events they were very tardy in doing it. I believe they did come at last, and I really believe there would have been serious work if they had not come. What I want to do now is to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who is the head of the police force, to the facts, and ask him to be good enough to give orders to the police that on future occasions like this they shall protect the people attending these meetings. However unpopular our opinions may be, I think we ought to be allowed to express them, and the more so because we are so small a minority. I appeal with confidence to the right hon. Gentleman to protect orderly people who are engaged in holding a perfectly legitimate meeting. As I understand it, one of the reasons advanced for this war in the Transvaal is that our fellow-subjects out there were not allowed free speech, and yet that is the very privilege it is sought to deprive us of.


However little the sympathy which the majority of this House feels with the opinions of the hon. Baronet on the Transvaal War, I am quite sure he has our sympathy in the unfortunate experience he has been through to-night. But many of us have had somewhat similar experiences at political meetings in various parts of the country, and not a few hon. Members have had to escape by back doors and travel by unfrequented streets to their homes in the course of their careers as political candidates. Of course, there is a more serious side to this question. I knew nothing of the intention of the hon. Baronet and his friends to hold this meeting, and I have only heard of the circumstances to-night. The hon. Baronet is quite within his right in calling attention to it, but, of course, until I have had an opportunity of making inquiry, I can say nothing about the conduct of the police, or whether they were or were not wanting in their duty. As the House knows, it is a very delicate matter for the police to interfere in these meetings.


I only complain that they were rather tardy.


On an occasion which closely approaches to a riot it is difficult to say whether, in coming on the scene, the police are or are not tardy. I can only promise that I will make some inquiry, as at present I know nothing at all about the matter.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 96; Noes, 22. (Division List No. 50.)

Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay
Bailey, James (Walworth) Gedge, Sydney Pease, Herbert P. (Darlington
Baird, John G. Alexander Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans Penn, John
Balcarres, Lord Goldsworthy, Major-General Phillpotts, Captain Arthur
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A J. (Manch'r Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Pilkington, R. (Lanes. Newton
Banbury, Frederick George Greville, Hon. Ronald Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. W. Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Beckett, Ernest William Hanson, Sir Reginald Purvis, Robert
Bethell, Commander Heath, James Rentoul, James Alexander
Blundell, Colonel Henry Hobhouse, Henry Richardson, Sir T. (Hartlep'l)
Bond, Edward Howell, William Tudor Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hozier, Hn James Henry Cecil Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin) Johnston, William (Belfast) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney
Cavendish, V. C. W. (D'rbysh're Lawrence, Sir E Durning- (Corn Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Seely, Charles Hilton
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.) Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wore'r Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverp'l) Smith, James Parker (Lanarks
Charrington, Spencer Lonsdale, John Brownlee Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Chelsea, Viscount Lowles, John Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Coghill, Douglas Harry Macartney, W. G. Ellison Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Macdona, John Cumming Talbot, Rt. Hn. J G (Oxf'd Univ.)
Colomb, Sir John C. Ready Maclver, David (Liverpool) Thornton, Percy M.
Corbett, A. C. (Glasgow) Maclure, Sir John William Webster, Sir Richard E.
Cubitt, Hon. Henry Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunt')
Curzon, Viscount Middlemore, J. Throgmorton Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)
Dalkeith, Earl of Monckton, Edward Philip Williams, J. Powell (Birm.)
Douglas, Kt. Hon. A. Akers Moore, William, (Antrim) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. More, Robt. Jasper (Shropsh.) Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Morrell, George Herbert Wyvill, Marmaduke D'Arcy
Finch, George H. Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute) Young, Commander (Berks, E.)
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Fisher, William Hayes Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Flower, Ernest Nicol, Donald Ninian
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Runciman, Walter
Caldwell, James Kilbride, Denis Samuel, J. (Stockton-on. Tees)
Channing, Francis Allston Lawson, Sir W. (Cumberland) Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Clark, Dr. G. B. O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Weir, James Galloway
Crilly, Daniel Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)
Doogan, P. C. Provand, Andrew Dryburgh TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Havelock Wilson and Mr. Maddison.
Duckworth, James Randell, David
Engledew, Charles John Reckitt, Harold James
Hayne, Rt. Hon. CharlesSeale Redmond, William (Clare)