HC Deb 30 March 1900 vol 81 cc789-90
MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he can state if the British steamer "Caspian" has been chartered by the Government for the purpose of conveying stores to South Africa; whether he is aware that this vessel carries a crew of thirty-two hands all told, the only British subjects employed on the vessel being the officers, seven in number, the remainder being foreigners of eight different nationalities; whether he is aware that some of these foreigners are Germans, Belgians, and Hollanders, and if he intends to take steps to insist on vessels which are employed by the Government being manned by British subjects or seamen who have homes in the United Kingdom; whether he is aware that the able seamen are paid at the rate of £3 10s. per month, whereas the current rate of wages for seamen from British ports is £4 10s.; and whether, in hiring transports, he will give the preference to ships carrying British crews.


The answer to the first paragraph is in the negative. The "Caspian" was engaged as a freight ship for the conveyance of a full cargo of supplies to South Africa, through the Admiralty agents, from the Union Steamship Company, by whom she was chartered from the owners. I am informed by the owners that when she sailed for the Cape she had her full complement of thirty-six, of whom fourteen were British subjects. The Admiralty is charged with the duty of conveying troops and stores when required with the utmost expedition to their destination. It would not be possible to take the action suggested in the third paragraph in the case of freight ships without serious and perhaps fatal delay. The statement as to the wages paid is correct, but I have no information as to the current rate of wages at British ports. With regard to the fifth paragraph of the question the answer is in the affirmative, provided the ships are otherwise equal.