HC Deb 02 December 1930 vol 245 cc1974-6
28 Rear-Admiral BEAMISH

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what steps have been taken by his Department to consult and collect professional opinion on the proposals to alter the British custom of helm orders in ships;

(2) the attitude of His Majesty's Government in regard to the proposals in Article 41 of the Merchant Shipping Safety Convention to alter the present universal system of helm orders in British ships;

(3) from what organised bodies of seafaring officers and men his Department has received support for and protests against the proposals to alter the present British custom of helm orders contained in Article 41 of the Merchant Shipping Safety Convention?


Article 41 of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention will come before the House as an integral part of the Convention, and I hope then to convince the House that the Convention, including this Article, should be approved. The question of helm orders has been very fully discussed both before and since the Conference. Shortly before the Conference, a special meeting of the various nautical associations was called by Trinity House, at the instance of the Board of Trade, and at that meeting professional opinion was fairly evenly divided. The following associations, namely, the Imperial Merchant Service Guild, the Mercantile Marine Service Association, the London Trinity House River and Channel Pilots' Committees have indicated that they are opposed to the change, while the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, the Officers (Merchant Navy) Federation, the United Kingdom Pilots' Association, and the National Union of Seamen have indicated that they are prepared to accept it.

Rear-Admiral BEAMISH

Can the President of the Board of Trade say whether opposition to the change in helm orders, if carried to the length of cutting them out of the Convention, would imperil the Convention itself?


Yes, the Convention must be approved as a whole. It will he debated shortly in another place, and also in this House before it can he approved; and, if it were materially altered, I should say, without finally committing myself, that it would be impossible for the convention to proceed.

Commander SOUTHBY

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what is the Admiralty view about the proposed change?


I should prefer not to deal with that until we come a little nearer to the debate.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether all the bodies mentioned who have given approval to the proposal have done so formally, or after consulting their members, as there is a serious difference of opinion on this subject?


I know the matter is controversial, but as to the precise details of the support for the proposals I should be glad if the hon. Member would give me notice. It is a very voluminous story.


Has the right hon. Gentleman taken the opinion of working pilots, especially those navigating the Tyne, on these proposals?


The hon. Member ought to give notice of that question.