HC Deb 26 July 1938 vol 338 cc2883-4
19. Mr. Windsor

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether he is aware that, during 1937, of 6,664 vessels subjected to sanitary inspection by the Hull and Goole port health authority 1,67o were found to have defects; and whether, in view of the fact that in only 423 instances were the defects rectified, he will consider the advisability of strengthening existing powers for ensuring proper standards of maritime hygiene;

(2) whether he is aware that of 597 British ships inspected by the Hull and Goole port health authority during 1937 and found to have defects in their crews' quarters as regards bad ventilation, insufficient lighting, both natural and artificial, the absence of flanges for stove pipes, the unsatisfactory arrangement of bunks, insufficiency of heating, and water-closets without water supply, only 43 of such defects were remedied; and whether he will initiate measures to secure a more rigid compliance on the part of shipowners with the rulings of responsible medical authorities;

(3) whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that during 1937, as the result of inspections undertaken by the Hull and Goole port health authority, 869 British vessels were found to have defects of dirt, vermin, and other conditions prejudicial to health, and that in 91 instances the conditions remained unchanged; and whether he will take such steps as will secure the observation of essential standards of cleanliness on all British ships?

Mr. Stanley

The port health authorities have full powers under the Public Health Acts to require the abatement or themselves abate on ships within their districts insanitary conditions or other nuisances injurious to health. The duty of seeing that crews' quarters are kept in a fit condition falls primarily upon the master as representative of the owners, and in this connection I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 30 of the Crew Space Instructions of 1937, of which I am sending him a copy. I may add that the Shipping Federation and the National Union of Seamen have recently set up a joint committee to consider methods of improving the standard of comfort and cleanliness in crews' accommodation. As regards structural defects, close co-operation is maintained between officers of port health authorities and Board of Trade surveyors, and in appropriate cases suitable measures are taken under the Merchant Shipping Acts.

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under the Act ships can be detained until such work as is essential for the health of the crew has been completed, and having regard to the stupendous number of ships allowed to proceed to sea under unhealthy conditions will he see that this is remedied?

Mr. Stanley

As I have pointed out, port authorities have these powers, and I would call attention to the fact that this report was made by the health authority of the port.

Mr. Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman notify the health authorities of these powers, and then find out what it means to have 3,000 ships held up in the course of a year?

Viscountess Astor

Will the right hon. Gentleman impress upon port authorities that it is their duty to hold up ships until conditions are satisfactory? The whole country is aroused by the appalling conditions on some of our ships.

Mr. Muff

Will the right hon. Gentleman also impress on shipowners that it is their duty to see that the rules are carried out?