HC Deb 15 May 1911 vol 25 cc1653-5

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention had been called to the naval court held at Antofagasta on 20th, 30th, and 31st December, 1909, and 3rd January, 1910, to inquire into the conduct of the master of the British ship "Earl of Dunmore" for having wrongfully left behind at Caleta Coloso four seamen; whether he is aware that the naval court imposed fines of £131 15s., and also censured the chief officer of the ship; whether he is aware that the complainant in this case, G. Wafer, an able seaman, gave evidence against the master and the mate, and that, on the discharge of this seaman, the roaster of the "Earl of Dunmore" caused an entry to be made in Wafer's continuous discharge book declining to report upon his character for conduct, which is equivalent to a bad discharge; and, if so, whether he would take any, and, if any, what action in the matter?


My attention has been called to the case to which my hon. Friend refers. The naval court imposed upon the master fines and costs amounting in all to £151 15s., and ordered the chief officer to be severely reprimanded. I am aware that the seaman Wafer gave evidence against the master and the mate, but as the "Earl of Dunmore" has not yet returned to the United Kingdom, I am not able to confirm the, statement that the master declined to report upon the seaman's conduct. Inquiry will, however, be made on the vessel's arrival. I may point out that Section 129 of the Merchant Shipping Act empowers a master to decline to give any opinion upon the conduct of a seaman, and that it is open to any seaman to refuse to have a copy of the report made by the master entered in his continuous discharge certificate.


asked under what circumstances, and on whose recommendation, the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury decided to refund to the master of the "Earl of Dunmore" £100, being the amount of the fines imposed for offences against the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, for having wilfully and wrongfully left behind at Caleta Coloso four seamen from the said vessel; if the hon. Gentleman is aware that a competent naval court sat for five days inquiring into these offences; if he can say whether one of the members of the naval court was the master of the British ship "Braemar"; and whether the seaman Wafer was legally represented at the said inquiry?


The Board of Trade considered very carefully all the circumstances attending the case to which my hon. Friend refers, and when the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury asked for their views, they suggested that the application for the remission of a portion of the fines imposed by the naval court for the alleged offences under Section 187 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, deserved favourable consideration. The naval court, which sat for five days, was properly constituted, and one of the members was Mr. H. Kelk, master of the "Braemar." The seaman Wafer gave evidence in person before the court, but it does not appear that he had legal assistance.