§ Mr. HOUSTON
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman's attention has been called to the allegation that the present standard of British sailors and firemen will not compare with foreigners, more especially Chinese; that foreigners are more sober and steady, and do their work more efficiently than Britishers; and whether, 604 if these allegations are correct, he will introduce legislation to enforce more sobriety, efficiency, and discipline amongst British seamen, thereby producing a better class of British seamen?
The allegation to which the hon. Member refers is at least a debatable one. Perhaps I may refer him to paragraph 19 of the Report of the Boy Seamen Committee of 1907 (Cd. 3722), which is as follows:—
19. Nor do we think that there is any force in the contention that the foreigner is preferred because he is more sober and better conducted. We have had much evidence to show that, while the foreigner on first entering the British Mercantile Marine may be easier to deal with, he is, as soon as the unfamiliarity of his surroundings has worn off, no better and no worse in this respect than the British seaman, who, it is generally admitted, is more to be relied upon in times of emergency.
The Merchant Shipping Acts provide severe penalties for breaches of discipline, and I am not prepared to introduce further legislation of the nature indicated by the hon. Member.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
In consequence of my question having been altered since I handed it in at the Table, may I ask is it possible for the right hon. Gentleman, as an act of justice to British seamen, to officially contradict the damaging allegations which have been so widely circulated?
My answer was in that sense. I quoted from a Report of the Boy Seamen Committee of 1907, which denies these allegations in toto.