HC Deb 04 July 1940 vol 362 cc996-7
28. Sir Smedley Crooke

asked the Minister of Pensions whether he will give a full account of the arrangements made for the continued payment of wages to members of the Mercantile Marine who have received war injuries?

The Minister of Pensions (Sir Walter Womersley)

I am afraid that, in an endeavour to give a very condensed account of a complicated subject, I did not make the position regarding these arrangements sufficiently clear. When a merchant ship is lost or wrecked by enemy action, wages are continued to the survivors for a period of a month, and where their return to this country is delayed, the period may, under certain conditions, be extended. The initiative for this continued payment of wages came from the shipowners themselves, who approached the Government with an offer to share the cost equally with the State if such a scheme were approved. Moreover, in the case of an injured survivor who at the end of the first month on fall pay is still disabled by war injury, and is granted an award by my Department, the shipowners themselves supplement that award for a further month. The country is greatly indebted to the shipowners for these generous arrangements.

Mr. Shinwell

Why did the Minister say, in the recent Debate, that when a merchant seaman loses his life as a result of enemy action his dependants continue to receive the allotment for four weeks? Is it not true that when a merchant seaman loses his life as a result of enemy action the allotment is paid only until the wages are exhausted?

Sir W. Womersley

I am afraid the hon. Member was not present when I made the statement. I said that an arrangement had been made with the three Services, and that I hoped a similar arrangement could be made in respect of merchant seamen. I know that there has been a certain misunderstanding. Some Members thought that it applied to disability, and in the case of deaths. I can assure the House that we shall take steps to see that those who have lost their lives by enemy action will be provided for until we get the matter cleared up.

Mr. David Adams

Does the arrangement mentioned by the Minister apply to the fishing fleets also?

Sir W. Womersley

No, Sir; I also stated that I was trying to make a similar arrangement with the owners of fishing vessels. Although the vast majority have met me, a minority are still standing out; but I am continuing those negotiations.

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