HC Deb 07 July 1908 vol 191 cc1442-3
MR. HAVELOCK WILSON (Middlesbrough)

To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the fact that when a British steamer, the "Stowford," left the Tyne on 23rd May, the whole of the British crew on Board were helplessly drunk, and that the managing owner of the steamer, who happened to be on board, had to take the wheel himself and steer the ship over the bar; whether he is aware that the owners of the ship in question had refused to pay the recognised port rate of wages, and sought the assistance of the agents of the Shipping Federation and certain seamen's boarding-house keepers to procure a crew; whether he is aware that the crew were engaged on board ship instead of at the Mercantile Marine Office, and the crew complained of consisted entirely of foreigners, who at the time of engagement failed to produce certificates to prove they were seamen; and whether he will cause a full inquiry to be made in this matter with a view to taking proceedings against the owner and master under Section 457 of the Merchant Shipping Act for sending and taking the vessel to sea in an unseaworthy condition in consequence of the helpless state of the crew through drink.

(Answered by Mr. Churchill.) My attention has been called to a newspaper report of this case. I am informed that the crew were sober when they signed articles, but that some of them appeared to be under the influence of drink when the vessel sailed. I am also informed that one of the owners was on board and sailed with the ship, and that the seamen and firemen were engaged at £4 per month, the current rate at the port being £4 10s., but the owners state that it is not the fact that they refused to pay the recognised port wages. I understand that the men were engaged through the Shipping Federation. Of twenty-three hands all told, twelve were engaged on board the ship, eight members of the crew were foreigners, and five did not produce discharge certificates; but seven of the crew have again sailed in the ship, which seems to show that the master was satisfied as to their qualifications. I will take legal advice and consider whether the case is, or is not one, for action under Section 457 of the Merchant Shipping Act.