HC Deb 19 March 1906 vol 154 cc56-7

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has received any Report from His Majesty's Consul at Naples relating to the alleged mutiny of a crew of Chinamen on board the s.s. "Epsom," which is under the management of Messrs. Watts Watts, who have had frequent trouble with Chinese crews; and whether he has received a Report as to the trouble with a Chinese crew on board the s.s. "Heathbank," now the "Wandsworth," under the same management; whether he is aware that the Chinese seamen employed on this vessel claimed their discharge and wages on the ground of a change of ownership, although the solicitors representing Messrs. Watts Watts informed the North Shields magistrates that there had been no change of ownership; whether he is aware that the crew refused to proceed in the ship, and were afterwards arrested at Newcastle on the master's instructions; that when the case was tried before the magistrate, no interpreter was present to explain the men's objections to proceeding in the ship, and that they were ordered to be put on board by the Newcastle City Police; whether he is aware that, on the vessel proceeding down the Tyne, five Chinamen jumped overboard and one man was drowned, the captain making no attempt to rescue the men; whether he is aware that the managers alleged the change of ownership did not affect the men's agreement; and, seeing that a summons taken out against an official of the Seamen's Union, on the alleged ground that he had persuaded the men to desert, was dismissed, whether he will inquire into the disturbances on the s.s. "Epsom" at Naples, and the s.s. "Wandsworth," and say how many Chinese crews Messrs. Watts Watts are employing on board their vessels.

(Answered by Mr. Kearley.) The Board of Trade have not yet received any Report from the Naples Consul with regard to the case of the "Epsom," which is, I am informed, managed as stated by Messrs. Watts, Watts, and Company, but I have called for a Report, and hope to receive it in a few days. With respect to the "Heathbank" or "Wandsworth," the Registrar General of Seamen informs me that she was purchased by the Gracechurch Steamship Company, Limited (Harris and Dixon, managers), in November, 1905, and sold to the Britain Steamship Company, Limited (F. S. Watts, manager), in February, 1906. So far as my information goes, the facts in this case are as stated in the Question, but the owners state that the Chinese left the ship surreptitiously, and the captain had no knowledge of the circumstances at the time. As to whether, under articles of agreement, these men were liable to be transferred to another owner, this was the subject of legal proceedings at Newcastle, and the magistrates directed the men to return to their duty. I believe Messrs. Watts, Watts, and Company, Limited, carry many Chinese seamen, but as to how many I cannot say.