HC Deb 30 June 1911 vol 27 cc720-2

Not amended (in the Standing Committee).


Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


I do not see the necessity for such a long explanation as that with which the last Bill was blessed, but at the same time I take the warning given by the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) very much to heart, and I cannot let the Bill, which I believe to be a very good one, pass through without asking the promoter, in this case a very able promoter and one who is quite capable o£ giving a very good explanation, if he will take the trouble to give the House an explanation as to the Bill.

1.0 P.M.


I know hon. Members want to save time, and I am doing my best to assist them.


There is no hurry.


Everybody has not the leisure of the hon. Baronet. The object of the Bill is this. The Merchant Shipping Acts of 1894 and 1906 read in combination have brought into existence a doubt as to how far it is possible for the shipowner and seaman to proceed by voluntary agreement in respect of seamen's allotment notes. When a seaman is away on a voyage he may contract with the shipowner to pay a certain proportion of his wages at fixed intervals to his wife or other relative living at home. Under the compulsory part of the Merchant Ship- ping Act he is entitled to demand that one-half of his wages shall be paid monthly to the relative in question. That is quite right and proper, but it is uncertain whether the ship-owner may voluntarily pay the money at intervals more frequent than one month, or whether he may voluntarily pay more than one-half. I think everyone will agree that it is very much to the advantage of the seaman's family that the money should be paid at more frequent intervals in order to keep the wife and family from falling into the hands of money-lenders. It is quite clear that people of the working classes cannot carry on if the wages are only paid monthly. Therefore it is desirable that payment should be made more frequently. I think it will also be admitted that a seaman should leave more than half his wages to his wife, because in addition to his nominal wages he is receiving board and lodging, so that half is not very adequate for the benefit of the family. A great many shipowners are quite willing and ready to meet the reasonable convenience of the seamen by making these frequent payments, but there is a doubt, and, unfortunately, the Board of Trade have admitted the existence of a doubt, as to whether this transaction is legal. The object of the Bill is to make quite clear that there is nothing illegal, and I believe this should appeal to the hon. Baronet, in any voluntary agreement made between the ship-owner and the seaman as regards the deduction from seamen's wages. It does not in any way affect compulsory power, and it does not alter, take from, or add to the rights of seamen in any way whatever. It simply makes it clear that there is nothing to prevent voluntary agreements going as far as people think right in the direction of benefiting the seaman in this matter. I hope, with this explanation, the House will now read the Bill the third time.


I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his explanation. I do not agree with him when he says that everybody has not the same leisure as I have. I hope that hon. Members opposite do not consider it their duty to come here only when they have nothing else to do; but that was the meaning of the hon. Member's remark if it had any meaning at all. My conception of the duty of a Member of Parliament is that he should put his duty in the House before everything else, in order that the constituents who returned him may get value for having done so. There is no obligation on a man to become a Member of Parliament, but when he is a Member he ought to do his duty in Parliament. This Bill has the great advantage that it is purely permissive; there is no compulsion in it. It provides that if a seaman and an owner agree that certain payments shall be made under certain conditions, that agreement shall have legal force. That is a very good piece of legislation, and I do not understand why shipowners have not thought of it before.


The Act of 1906 brought about the doubt.


The more legislation there is the more necessary is it to bring in further legislation to correct the mistakes of the original legislation, which arise from Members not being in their places to investigate the legislation when it is being passed. That is a very good illustration of the point I was making a few minutes ago. This is an extremely good measure. The hon. Member was kind enough to consult me before the Second Reading. He gave me a very lucid explanation of the Bill; I think there is nothing else behind it, and I have great pleasure in giving it my support.


I should like to add my support to that of the hon. Baronet. I think the Bill has everything in its favour and nothing against it. Weekly payments are obviously far more advantageous than monthly payments to a sailor's relatives. I trust the Bill will go through without opposition.

Bill read the third time and passed.