HC Deb 13 March 1928 vol 214 cc1686-7
1. Mr. B. SMITH

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether officers of his Department examine and supervise contracts of service made between owners and crews of trawling vessels at the port of Grimsby; if so, whether these contracts contain particulars of charges for food, drinking-water and other commodities which the owners deduct from the men's earnings at the end of each trip; whether the prices charged are sanctioned as being fair and reasonable; and, if not, what steps are taken to protect the fishermen against unjust stoppages?

The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Herbert Williams)

Agreements with the crews of Grimsby trawlers are not examined by any Board of Trade officer before they are signed. These agreements do not normally contain particulars of charges to he made for stores. Fishermen have the right to appeal to the Board of Trade Superintendent on any question of earnings or cost of provisions, and that right is frequently exercised.


May I ask whether the provisions of the Truck Act are regarded by any authority, and, if so, by what body?


I should like to have notice of that question.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the agreements entered into by the fishermen and owners of vessels are in accordance with the award of Mr. Justice Fry, 25 years ago, and that if the men have any complaint whatever as regards their settling bills the Board of Trade officials at Grimsby are most courteous in taking the case up and thoroughly investigating it; and that no complaints have been sent to me as Member for the constituency?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, whereas the majority of boat owners treat their men well, and the officials are certainly helpful, yet, owing to the slackness in the fishing trade, the men are afraid to complain because of the fear that they will not he signed on again, and will he instruct his officials to investigate thoroughly the position in order to see that there is no ground for these complaints in the case of a certain minority?


I have no reason to believe that the circumstances are other than those stated by the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley), and, as the fishermen frequently exercise their rights, the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) does not arise.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the ordinary articles of a seagoing ship drinking water is supplied free, whereas in a fishing smack they have to pay for their drinking water?

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Will the hon. Gentleman oblige me and at the same time satisfy the conscience of the hon. Member for Grimsby, by instructing his officials to look into the matter, as the men are honestly afraid to complain?


Is my hon. Friend aware that the alleged charge for drinking water is a charge that is made by the railway company for putting it on board the vessels, and that it is charged up against the expenses of the vessel in the same way as other charges are put on the list; and that the sum distributed among the share fishermen is the amount that is left after these expenses have been met?


The hon. Member seems to be giving information to the House.