§ MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)
To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the steamer "Maritta" engaged a crew at Cardiff on 4th June, 1907, and that on the previous voyage the "Maritta" carried six able seamen, while on the present voyage she has sailed without any qualified able seamen; whether he is aware that six ordinary seamen had been engaged at £3 10s. per month to lake the place of able seamen, and can he say if the superintendent of the mercantile marine office has brought under the notice of the surveyor of the Board of Trade at Cardiff the question of the manning of this vessel, and what steps, if any, did the Board of Trade take to prevent the "Maritta" from proceeding to sea without a qualified crew of able seamen; and whether, in view of the position that may arise in steamers proceeding on foreign voyages without a competent crew, he will take steps so that British ships may be properly manned in accordance with the recommendation of the Manning Committee's Report of 1896.
(Answered by Mr. Lloyd-George) On the previous voyage the "Maritta" 300 carried a carpenter, a boatswain, and six able seamen, the wages of the able seamen being £4 per month. On the 4th instant a carpenter and a boatswain were engaged, and six ordinary seamen, the wages of these seamen being £3 10s. per month. The case was referred by the superintendent of the surveyors, and the surveyor who looked into it reported that these men had been seen personally by him and that he was satisfied that they would be found capable of performing the usual duties of seamen. On testing them, it was evident to him that they understood and could carry out the usual duties that are given to seamen. He also observed them moving the steamer in dock, and noticed that they obeyed orders rapidly and in an intelligent and seamanlike way. He also stated that he was informed that they had served three years at sea, and he understood that they held discharges for twelve months of that time. He added that the master stated that he had selected four of these men to act as helmsmen, and had found them satisfactory on the passage round from London. Each of these men was sent to the wheel, and given various orders in his presence which were evidently understood and executed rapidly. My hon. friend will remember that the Merchant Shipping Act of 1897, which deals with under-manning, was passed in consequence of the Manning Committee's Report. Carefully considered instructions as to procedure under that Act were issued by the Board of Trade to their officers, and, as at present advised, although I am watching carefully the way in which shipowners interpret their obligations under the Acts of 1897 and of 1906 in respect of manning, I do not think that any reason has been shown for altering those instructions.