§ 2. Mr. KIRKWOOD
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will consider the restoration of the Plimsoll line Regulations; and if he is aware of the beneficial effect this would have upon the shipbuilding industry, besides making for the greater safety of seamen?
The whole question of the load line was inquired into by a Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Philip Watts, which reported in 1915 [Parliamentary Paper, Cd. 8204 of 1916]. This Committee examined the criticisms that had been brought against the revision of the load line Regulations which was effected in 1906, and found that on the whole the Regulations as revised were sufficient to ensure the safety of vessels, although in some cases they had made the ships less comfortable. The Committee also prepared a further revision of the Regulations, tending to avoid anomalies and inequalities as between different types of steamers. The adoption of this further revision had to stand over owing to the War, but is now being considered. As soon as the new proposals are ready, they will be placed before the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee, on which all the interests connected with shipping are represented.
§ Mr. STURROCK
Will the House have an opportunity of considering these new Regulations before they are put into operation?
§ Sir A. SHIRLEY BENN
When the Committee is investigating this matter, will they arrange that no foreign ship which does not conform to the British load line shall be allowed to enter our ports?
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Will the Minister consider the advisability of examining this Committee and seeing whether it is not possible to alter it with advantage to the changed conditions since 1915? The right hon. Gentleman said that a Committee was sitting, which was appointed in 1915. We have had a great war since then, and we have had several changes of Government. Therefore, I think we might have a change in regard to the Committee.
I will see that these Regulations, in one or other stage, are laid before the House, but I cannot say what stage that will be. With regard to the supplementary question by the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), the point under consideration relates rather to the new types of ships, and in that respect there have been changes since 1915. I will endeavour to see that the matter is expedited as far as possible, but it does not entirely lie with the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. STURROCK
Having regard to the history of the agitation which went on before the Plimsoll line was established, will the right hon. Gentleman state specifically that any new Regulations affecting merchant shipping and the welfare of the men who go to sea will come before the House before there is any chance of their being adopted?
§ 6. Captain Viscount CURZON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the prosecution in Liverpool, on 15th April last, of the master of the coasting vessel "Jenny" for allowing the ship to be so heavily loaded that the load, or Plimsoll, line was submerged; and, seeing that this vessel was allowed to sail from Garston on 7th February in an unsea-worthy condition, whether he will inquire into the question whether the Marine Department of the Board of Trade is adequately staffed by marine surveyors?
My attention has been called to the case of overloading referred 199 to in the question, and the prosecution in this case was instituted by the Board of Trade. The adequacy of the marine survey staff to carry out its various duties at the several ports of the country is continuously under review. In the case of the Liverpool district, I am advised that there is no sufficient reason for increasing the staff at present; but I will have inquiry made as to whether further inspections at Garston are desirable.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. HALL
How was it that this vessel was allowed to leave with her Plimsoll line submerged?
It is impossible, physically, to prevent vessels leaving from all the numerous ports. In this case the vessel was overtaken at an Irish port, the first port to which it went, and the person responsible was immediately prosecuted.
Sir F. HALL
Does it not indicate that there is something wrong with regard to the Board of Trade? How came it to be allowed to leave in that condition?
§ Mr. STURROCK
Is it not possible for the Marine Department of the Board of Trade to take such precautions at every port in the country so as to prevent vessels going to sea obviously overladen, as in this case?
I am afraid that no amount of supervision will prevent crimes being committed. What we have to rely upon is that when crimes are committed there should be prompt and effective prosecution.