HC Deb 09 June 1904 vol 135 cc1208-9
MR. JOYCE () Limerick

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been directed to the trial and conviction of fourteen Chinese seamen at the North Shields Police Court on 3lst May last, on the alleged ground of disobeying the commands of the master of the British steamship "Turbo," owned by the Shell Transport and Trading Company, Limited; whether he is aware that the magistrate suggested that an interpreter should be provided for these men, and that the master of the "Turbo" declared this to be unnecessary; and, if so, can he state if these fourteen Chinamen were engaged and signed on at Singapore, as stated in evidence by the master of the "Turbo"; and whether he is aware that on 1st April last, the same master of the British steamship "Turbo" had trouble with fourteen Chinese seamen who were discharged from that vessel at Gravesend, the Chinamen alleging that the master had not complied with the terms of the agreement which he made with them, and that these Chinese seamen were charged £1 each as deduction for police expenses, without the matter being decided before a magistrate.

(Answered by Mr. Gerald Balfour.) I have received reports on the subject to which the hon. Member refers from the superintendents of the Mercantile Marine Offices at Gravesend and North Shields, and the owners of the steamship "Turbo" have also furnished me with information. As regards the trial of the Chinamen at North Shields, the facts as stated are in the main correct, but it appears that, although an interpreter was not present when the men were first brought before the Court, the magistrate remanded them until an interpreter could be obtained, and the seamen were thus enabled to acquaint the Bench with their position before sentence was passed. According to the agreement of the vessel, all these Chinamen, with one exception, had been engaged at Singapore as stated by the master. From the report furnished by the superintendent at Gravesend, it appears that on 1st April the Chinese firemen on board the "Turbo" refused duty, and eventually fifteen of them were discharged by mutual consent. No complaint was made by the men as to the sums paid to them in respect of wages, which they stated to be correct. I am further informed by the owners that a deduction of £1 a head for police expenses was not made.