§ MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to a case tried at Dale Street Police Court, Liverpool, 1038 on 24th January, when fourteen firemen of the steamship "Bohemian" were sentenced to fourteen days hard labour without the option of a fine for disobeying orders on board ship; whether he is aware that Mr. S. Hough and Mr. C. F. Finney, two of the magistrates before whom the case was tried, are shipowners; and whether shipowners are empowered to try cases in which their interests are so much concerned.
§ * MR. RITCHIE
I am not aware that the facts stated in the question constitute any legal disqualification of the magistrates who tried the case.
§ MR. KEIR HARDIE
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that at Dale Street Police Court, Liverpool, on 24th January, fourteen firemen of the steamship "Bohemian" were summoned by Mr. Cook, chief engineer, for refusing duty, and were sentenced to fourteen days hard labour without the option of a fine; that the duty they refused was to wash paint in the engine-room over the working parts of the engine after their ordinary day's work was finished; and that the ship was rolling a good deal at the time, which would have made the performance of the work dangerous; whether he has any information showing such work to have been necessary for the safety or navigation of the ship; and whether he has any powers to protect men from being prosecuted for similar charges.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The conviction of fourteen firemen belonging to the steamship "Bohemian" for an offence under the Merchant Shipping Act was, as a matter of fact, brought to the notice of the Board of Trade, though the matter is not one coming within the Board's province. The Board of Trade had nothing to do with the prosecution, and they have no power to interfere with the ordinary course of justice.