HL Deb 28 July 1905 vol 150 cc719-35

rose to draw the attention of His Majesty's Government to the fact that at many important shipping centres no local marine boards exist, and to move to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Board of Trade should, without delay, appoint local marine boards at these ports in accordance with Section 244 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and that steps should be taken to secure the due representation of captains and engineers upon both existing and future local marine boards." Also to ask His Majesty's Government whether the Board of Trade have appointed as their nominees upon such boards trade union officials, including some who have been convicted of infractions of the Merchant Shipping; Act and of other offences; and, if so, whether the Board of Trade will consider the propriety of cancelling such nominations and substituting there for the nominations of captains and engineers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the President of the Board of Trade, in answer to a deputation which recently waited upon him at Bristol on the subject of the granting of certificates to alien pilots, said that the Board of Trade had no option but to administer the law as they found it. That has been the refrain of many replies to many such deputations by many previous Presidents. The object of the Motion which I have the honour to submit to your Lordships' notice to-day is to urge the Board of Trade to give effect, in the case of local marine boards, to its own oft-repeated dictum.

In order that your Lordships may understand the importance of the question and its bearing upon the well-being of the mercantile marine, I will ask you to bear with me while I refer briefly to the origin, purpose, and constitution of local marine Boards. Local marine boards are provided for by the Act of 1894, but for their origin we have to go back to the year 1850. The Act of Parliament by which they were constituted was designed to achieve three great objects, and I cannot do better than quote to your Lordships an extract from a speech made by the then President of the Board of Trade in another place in introducing the Bill which afterwards became law, because every word has an intimate bearing. upon the subject of this Motion. The President said— One of its principal provisions was that which would establish a system of compulsory examination of masters and mates in the merchant service, and would provide that which he held to be an object of the greatest importance, the power of cashiering a master or mate for incapacity or delinquency proved before a competent tribunal. That was the-first great. principle embodied in the Bill. The second was that which would put a stop to that system of 'crimpage' which brutified and oppressed the seafaring population of this country, and which did not prevail in a similar degree in any other country in the world. With a view to put a stop to that system the Bill would provide for the establishment of responsible public officers who would undertake the duty of engaging crews and of dismissing crews on the return of a vessel from its voyage. That was the second great object of the Bill. The third was to be found in those provisions which were directed to the important purposes of improving the discipline of our merchant navy, of putting a stop to that desertion which prevailed to so great an extent in the merchant service, and of tightening the reins of discipline, which he held to be an object not less important for the welfare of the sailor than for the protection of the rights of the shipowner. Those were the great objects of the Bill, and he asserted, without fear of contradiction, that the great body of shipping interest not only approved of those objects, but believed that the proposed mode of carrying them into effect would be unobjectionable."

Proceeding to deal with the machinery for giving effect to the provisions of the Bill the President said— "He found that the principal objection entertained to the measure, and especially in the great outports, was that it would enforce a system of excessive centralisation, and would bring the shipping interest too much under the control of the Board of Trade sitting in London. Now he had felt that to be a question of great difficulty. He had no abstract reverence for a system of centralisation upon that or any other subject; on the contrary, he was anxious to avoid it as much as possible; and still less was he anxious for the patronage which the Bill would vest in the Board of Trade. He believed the shipping masters would have a most difficult duty to discharge; and he should be most happy to get rid of the appointment of those officers if he thought he could do so without leaving local bodies destitute of any proper check, and without allowing them to become centres of abuse and agitation. He thought that after a good deal of discussion with parties interested in the matter he had fallen on a plan which would prevent any system of centralisation, and would at the same time ensure an effectual check against local abuses. He proposed to institute local marine boards in all ports having more than 30,000 tons of shipping engaged in the foreign trade; and he further proposed that each of those local boards should be composed of twelve members, six of whom should be elected by the shipowners of the port four out of the resident shipowners of the port to be nominated by the Board of Trade, together with the mayor, or provost, as the case might be, and the stipendiary magistrate, to make up the board of twelve. He proposed that those local boards should carry on a good deal of the business and regulate many of the appointments which had before been entrusted to the Board of Trade. He proposed that those boards should have a concurrent power with the Board of Trade of appointing examiners, while the Board of Trade should have the right of fixing the plan of examination, and of assisting by its officers at the examinations. The next point to which he should advert was the appointment of shipping officers. He believed there would be no danger in allowing the local boards to nominate shipping officers, and in making the necessary arrangements for the establishment of shipping offices. It had been represented to him, and with great force, as he thought that those officers would be placed in a very difficult and embarrassing position unless they could preserve the most cordial good understanding with the shipowners. He would, therefore, give the local boards the power of nominating the shipping officers; but he would take the precaution against any abuse of that concession by requiring that no salary could be given to those officers without the express sanction of the Board of Trade, which would be responsible for the expense of that portion of the proposed system. He would also give the local boards a concurrent power with the Board of Trade of instituting investigations into the conduct of all masters of ships against whom there was prima facie evidence that they had abused their powers."

These proposals became law in the Act of 13 and 14 Vic, c. 23, and local marine boards were appointed on the basis therein defined. As your Lordships are aware, mercantile marine legislation was afterwards consolidated in the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, and later by the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. Both these Acts provide for the continuance of existing local marine boards, and the appointment of others by the Board of Trade. These Acts do not contain a word which implies an alteration in the status of ports which are to be provided with local marine boards. Section 244 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, provides that— There shall be local marine boards for carrying into effect this Act under the superintendence of the Board of Trade at those ports of the United Kingdom at which local marine boards are now established, and at such other ports as the Board of Trade appoint for the purpose. The obvious intention of Parliament was to allow sufficient elasticity in the law to enable the Board of Trade to meet the growing needs of the shipping community arising from the development and progress of the industry at various ports by appointing local marine boards as these ports should attain dimensions equal to those at which such boards were already in existence.

Now I submit to your Lordships that the Board of Trade have lamentably failed to give effect to the plain intention of the Act. At present there are in existence seventeen local marine boards, tie most recently appointed being that at Cardiff in 1893. Since then not a single further board has been appointed by the Board of Trade. But, my Lords, if the Board of Trade has stood still, the shipping industry of this country has continued to progress. The qualification for the institution of a local marine board was the registration of 30,000 tons of foreign going tonnage at the port to which the board is attached. This qualification is represented to-day by the entrance and clearance of 200,000 tons of British foreign going tonnage, that is to say, that 200,000 tons stand in the same relation to our tonnage today as 30,000 did to the tonnage of 1850. Taking, therefore, the basis of 200,000 tons as a proper one to be at present adopted by the Board of Trade, if effect is consistently to be given to the desires of the Legislature, we find that no less than sixteen ports are unprovided with local marine boards which on that basis are entitled to such institutions. While in some of these ports, such as Harwich, the tonnage entered and cleared may be swelled by the cross-Channel vessels which trade to these ports, but do not appreciably increase the volume of mercantile marine work, it cannot be denied that many other ports, both on the basis of tonnage and on the basis of seamen engaged and discharged, have long passed the stage when they should have been provided with the proper machinery designed by Parliament for the administration of the Merchant Shipping Act.

Let me draw your Lordships' attention to some of the more striking anomalies of the present position. It would be ridiculous to assume that Parliament intended that the Merchant Shipping Act should be carried out by local marine boards at certain ports, and that at other ports of equal or greater importance it should be carried out directly by the Board of Trade. Yet that is how matters stand to day. For example, Aberdeen, with a tonnage of 100,849 tons entered and cleared, and no record of the number of men shipped annually, presumably because it is so small, is provided with a local marine board. Southampton, with a tonnage entered and cleared of 2,308,069 tons, and 24,188 men shipped, has no such institution, the Board of Trade having thrown cold water on a proposal for the establishment of a board which emanated from the local chamber of commerce. Plymouth, with a tonnage entered and cleared of 251,006 tons, and no record of men shipped, possesses a board; Swansea, with a tonnage of 1,324,852 tons entered and cleared, and 6,465 men shipped, has none. The mercantile marine business of Greenock, with a tonnage of 150,211 tons entered and cleared, and no record of men shipped, is under the supervision of a local marine board; the same business at Newport, with 1,596,551 tons entered and cleared, and 9,514 men shipped, is under the direct supervision of the Board of Trade, notwithstanding a resolution of the local chamber of commerce requesting the appointment of a board. At Dublin, where the tonnage entered and cleared is 361,808 tons, and the number of men shipped is 1,561, there is a local marine board; at Middlesbrough, where the tonnage entered and cleared is 748,369 tons, and the number of men shipped 2,261, there is none. Sunderland, with 756,378 tons entered and cleared, and 4,648 men shipped, rejoices in a local marine board; Manchester, with 1,483,799 tons entered and cleared, and presumably a much larger number of men shipped, laments the absence of such an institution.

Again, I submit to your Lordships that it was never the intention of Parliament that such an anomalous and confused state of affairs as this should be allowed to arise, and that Section 244 of the Merchant Shipping Act was intended to be administered rationally and not simply at the caprice of the Board of Trade officials. As to the desire on the part of shipowners and shipmasters for local marine boards, there can be no question. At the last annual meeting of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom a resolution was unanimously passed urging the President of the Board of Trade to give the matter his immediate attention. The Executive Council of the Shipping Federation, which represents approximately nine-tenths of the foreign-going vessels of our mercantile marine, and whose function is principally to deal with the personnel of the service, are also unanimously in favour of the appointment of further boards. The Merchant Service Guild, representing over 12,000 captains and officers, is of the same opinion. What excuse has the Board of Trade to offer for neglecting the duty imposed upon it by statute and for flouting the wishes of these great and representative bodies? It cannot be on the ground of expense, because the cost of a local marine board is but little more than the price of the stationery and the secretary's salary, say £50 a year, the board having power to arrange that one examiner shall act jointly for various ports.

That these boards are necessary and valuable institutions cannot be denied. The shipping industry is of a most complex and varied character in all its details. None other is subject in the same degree to State regulation, and regarding it, as I do, as the paramount national industry of this country, I should be the last to say it should be otherwise. On the the other hand, there is no trade which is less understood by those who are without practical experience than the shipping trade, and in none consequently is it of more importance that the control of the State should be of a judicious and elastic character, if it is not to be fraught with disastrous results. This was recognised by the Legislature when it provided that its intervention in what I may term the domestic relations between shipowners and their crews should be made through the medium of shipowners themselves as represented upon these boards. As I have already pointed out to your Lordships, it was considered to be in the interests of the seaman, in order to save him from the crimps and other harpies by whom he is regarded as legitimate prey, that the whole of the formalities in connection with his engagement and discharge should take place in the presence of State officials. It was wisely recognised that this method of State regulation might take the form of intolerable interference unless it were sympathetically administered;

It is difficult for an employer of shore labour to realise the extent to which that interference is carried. It is open to any of your Lordships to engage a servant by the day, week, month, or year without reference to any Department of State. But the Cunard Company cannot carry a seaman on a five days trip across the Atlantic without a solemn contract entered into before a mercantile marine superintendent, hedged with formalities and restrictions of every kind. Whatever there may have been to be said for such procedure in the days of sailing ships, when voyages lasted for years which now occupy weeks only, there can be no doubt that it is rapidly becoming archaic and oppressive. It is therefore doubly important to ship owners that their legal rights to representative control of these details of their business should not be filched from them. Can any one doubt that a local marine board composed of the six leading ship owners of a port, of four captains and engineers, and of the mayor and stipendiary magistrate of the port, is likely to act otherwise than in the most upright manner? My Lords, I have not hesitated, in season and out of season, to denounce what I consider to be evils in the conduct of the shipping business of this country, but I have never formed so low an estimate of the character of ship owners as the Marine Department of the Board of Trade, who are apparently afraid to confide to them the administration under the Board's own superintendence, and in conjunction with the Board's own nominees, of those statutory provisions which it was always intended should be so administered.

As one illustration out of many of the evils which arise from the absence of expert local supervision of mercantile marine business, and of the utter incapacity of a Government Department to appreciate the practical issues between ship owners and seaman and the difficulties of maintaining discipline at sea, I will refer your Lordships to the case of the port of Middlesbrough— that port which has recently been refused a local marine board by the Board of Trade in spite of a memorial praying for the establishment of such a board, unanimously signed by the ship owners resident in the port, by the owners of vessels trading to the port, by the masters of such vessels, and by the great societies of ship owners; shipmasters, and officers to which I have previously referred. In the absence of a local marine board it has devolved upon the Board of Trade to perform the functions which, under the Act of Parliament, should have been undertaken by a local marine board.

Let me mention some of these functions to your Lordships, and then let us see how they have been carried out by the Board of Trade. These functions are to be found enumerated in Sections 244– 5– 6 of the Merchant Shipping Act,1894. One of the duties of the local marine board is to appoint and remove the necessary mercantile marine officers, whose business it is to superintend the engagement and discharge of seamen. The post of mercantile marine superintendent is, I need hardly say, one involving an intimate knowledge of the mercantile marine, and especially of the practical and everyday relations between shipmasters and their crews. How was the appointment of superintendent of mercantile marine filled up by the Board of Trade at Middlesbrough? Did they appoint a shipmaster of experience and sound attainments, a man whose practical knowledge of the service would be helpful and valuable in every way in connection with the duties of his post? Or did they promote some official who, although without sea experience, had by virtue of long service in a subordinate capacity gained such a knowledge as would fit him for the position? No, my Lords, the Board of Trade were not trammelled by any such considerations. The gentleman they saw fit to appoint to the important and responsible position of mercantile marine superintendent was a chemist— a laboratory chemist, and although at the time a Question was put to the then President of the Board of Trade on the subject in another place, on behalf of the shipping interest, and although I myself drew the attention of your Lordships' House to it, the appointment was persisted in by the Board of Trade.

I ask your Lordships is it conceivable that any local marine board, with an adequate representation of ship owners and shipmasters upon it, would have made such an appointment as that? I have not a word to say against the gentleman personally. For aught I know he may be imbued with a strong sense of duty, and in course of time he may even make an excellent superintendent of mercantile marine; but, my Lords, he is getting his education at the expense of the best interests of the merchant service. For what are the results that one would expect to flow from such an appointment? They are the results which are almost inevitable where a chief official has to rely entirely upon his subordinate for the practical knowledge of the business of which he is in charge, and where, in addition, those subordinates are men who, however well qualified they may be for an inferior position, have neither the capacity nor the character to fit them to deal with the higher and more responsible duties of their profession.

In the case of the port of Middles-brough, it was the expected which happened. Very numerous complaints have been made by captains concerning the manner in which mercantile marine business is transacted at this port. Some of these masters were members of the Merchant Service Guild and complained bitterly to that body. Others complained to their owners, who in turn passed on their complaints to the Shipping Federation by whom they were laid before the Board of Trade. These complaints, which have been submitted to me by the guild, were to the effect that the shipmasters in question had received degrading treatment at the hands of the mercantile marine officials in the presence of their crews. The reading of the articles of agreement was accompanied by a running commentary by these officials, which I can describe as nothing less than an incitement to the men to insubordination. The men were advised to take no notice of certain clauses in their agreements, to see that they were not tricked in connection with the scale of provisions by the substitution of margarine for butter, and so forth. These remarks were made to the seamen in the presence of their captains, and were sometimes received with applause by the men. My Lords, I do not envy the lot of the shipmaster who is called upon to command a British crew after such a preparation for the voyage as this.

In one case, that of the steamer "Dews-land," a seaman was so wrought upon by the admonitions of the mercantile marine officials that, after the signing of the articles, he returned to the vessel, and striking the master in the face declared he would not proceed to sea in her. The master of the "Harbyn" writes as follows— On paying off at Middlesbrough, on the 29th of January last, I was treated by the shipping master in a scandalous manner. There were two men I gave a passage home to from Bilbao to Middlesborough. I was in error in not reporting these men immediately as aliens; I was and had been ill at the time, and that is how this error was made. Well, some of my crew were not what I would have liked them to be, and I gave them" Good "instead of" Very good "discharges; the men complained and the shipping master dictated to me in a very improper manner. The men informed the shipping master I had brought two foreigners into the country, and that I had /passed a ship in distress in the Bay of Biscay and would not stop to attend to her. The shipping master, Mr. Hart, took up this question and carried on very much, bullying me before the men like a pickpocket, which was too much for me to stand, with the result that I retaliated, so what was actually said I cannot say, but he was most insulting to me. We did pass a vessel in the Bay of Biscay stopped under ordinary conditions which often happens at sea, but she had not any lights asking for assistance, but only showed the usual regulation lights, masthead and side lights. I threatened at the time to write to the superintendent of the Board of Trade but did not, as I was too busy. I may add that I shipped these men whom I brought from Bilbao, so that they were not left in this country. My chief mate, who was present at the time, confirms this statement, and appends his name thereto. Do your Lordships suppose for a moment that if a local marine board had been in existence such a state of affairs as is represented by these complaints would not have been instantly nipped in the bud? The ship owners and shipmasters requested the appointment of a local marine board at Middles-brough and an inquiry into the conduct of the officials, the latter request being, after considerable delay, granted by the Board of Trade. To their surprise when the inquiry was opened at Middles-brough they found themselves confronted by the secretary of a so-called Seamen's Union— which is unknown to the Registrar of Friendly Societies— who had been invited to take part in the inquiry by the Board of Trade, apparently for no other purpose than to heckle the witnesses with, impudent questioning. As if this gratuitous insult were not sufficient, the ship owners who had stipulated for, and been promised, legal representation at the inquiry, were informed that the charges against the officials would be heard in camera.

My Lords, I do not know of what sort of stuff ship owners are made which enables them to acquiesce in this sort of treatment without protest to His Majesty's Government. As it was, those present took the only step compatible with dignity or even decency, and withdrew from the so-called inquiry, leaving it to be finished by the Board of Trade and its trade-union advisers. I have referred to this so-called inquiry for the purpose of showing the utter inability of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade to appreciate the very real difficulties which exist between masters and crews. I would draw your Lordships' attention to a passage in the inquiry in connection with the examination of Captain Green, a member of the Merchant Service Guild, who had travelled from Genoa for the purpose of giving his evidence. I take the passage verbatim from the shorthand note of the proceedings which has been supplied to me by the Merchant Service Guild. The president of the committee of inquiry, addressing the secretary of the Seamen's Union referred to, upon whom he (the president)— and the president, I may mention, was the Professional Adviser of the Board of Trade— appeared principally to lean for advice in the conduct of the proceedings, said— The personal matters are the matters which can only be spoken to by the persons concerned. What I am talking about are the trivial charges such as that when a man read out from the scales of provisions, he paused at the word 'butter,' and said, 'Take care to get butter, men, and not margarine.' That is a charge which I do not think you, or anyone else, would be interested in sifting. My Lords, more complete incapacity to grasp the delicacy of the relations between shipmasters and their crews it would be hard to imagine. On the one hand, you have a captain who, with two or three mates, is responsible for the control of his crew. On the other hand, you have the crew, a body of men inflamed with the teachings of agitators, taught to take advantage of every loophole for indiscipline. Between the two is the Government official, who by manner, word, and deed, is inciting those men to discontent. Your Lordships do not need to be informed how quickly the seeds of discontent when sown in such soil germinate and blossom into insubordination.

My Lords, I could multiply instances in which the interests of the mercantile marine are suffering for the want of that local and immediate control over their own business under the supervision of Government which the Legislature wisely ordained it was to have in certain matters. But I will now pass to another point, viz., the character of the representation upon the local marine boards so far as that representation is in the hands of the Board of Trade. As your Lordships are aware, the boards consist usually of twelve members. Of these, six are elected by the ship owners, and naturally enough are members of the trade; four fall to be nominated by the Board of Trade, and the remainder, which may be one, two, or three, are the mayor and stipendiary magistrate or magistrates of the port. It is in respect of the Board of Trade nominees that I wish to urge upon His Majesty's Government that full representation should be given to captains and engineers upon these boards. I freely admit that this principle has already been partially adopted, and that representatives of the cloth are to be found among the nominees of the Board of Trade upon many local marine boards. But I say it should be more widely adopted still by the exclusion of the trade-union officials which the Board of Trade have seen fit to put upon some of these boards and the substitution in their place of captains and engineers.

Take the local marine board of the port of London. Not one single representative of merchant captains is to be found upon that board. Yet one of the nominees of the Board of Trade is Mr. Joseph H. Wilson, who on more than one occasion has been convicted and fined for persuading seamen to desert from their vessels and has been imprisoned for riotous assembly, and who, I am informed, abuses his position upon the local marine board by using it to gain access to the shipping office in connection with the soliciting of seamen to join his so-called union, and for other purposes in connection with that organisation. There is a saying, my Lords, that— An old poacher makes the best gamekeeper, but I submit that that would be a dangerous principle for adoption by the Government of this country in the selection of its nominees for public offices, and that the interests of public morality are badly served by such an appointment as that to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention, and upon which I do not propose to dwell at greater length.

Since first I occupied myself with this question I observe that the triennial elections of local marine boards have taken place, and I have noted with some satisfaction that the Board of Trade, in deference no doubt to the strong local feeling which was evoked by the appointment, have refrained from re-nominating another trade-union official who had also been convicted of the offence of persuading seamen to desert. I trust we may take this as an earnest of their intention to abandon this pernicious policy, if only by degrees. On the general question of the right of seamen to due representation in any legitimate sphere no one feels more strongly than I do. Seamen are entitled to combine, or, as unfortunately seems to happen in their case, to allow themselves to be combined by some manipulator, if they choose, but in no sense can it be said that they have any title to representation upon local marine boards, which are the tribunals before whom their captains and officers are brought upon charges of misconduct.

The British Navy exhibits the highest standard of discipline in the world. It also offers the finest example of a healthy and contented personnel in spite of food and pay which are as a rule inferior to those obtainable in the mercantile marine, though the food in merchant ships is too often ruined by bad cooking. I wonder how your Lordships, or the Lords of the Admiralty, would receive a proposal that the men of that service should be represented upon Courts-martial sitting in judgment on their officers? Could any proposal be imagined more derogatory to, or subversive of, discipline? Yet the principle is the same in both cases. I, therefore, invite your Lordships to join with me in urging His Majesty's Government to increase the number of local marine boards till it is commensurate with the maritime needs of the country, to strengthen and purify the representation upon these boards by purging them from those elements which, at the best, are "matter in the wrong place," and, in short, to impress upon the Board of Trade the duty of administering the law as it finds it, not only in the letter, but honestly in accordance with its spirit and the intention of the Legislature.

Moved to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, the Board of Trade should, without delay, appoint Local Marine Boards at these ports in accordance with Section 244 of the Merchant Shipping Act,1894, and that steps should be taken to secure the due representation of captains and engineers upon both existing and future Local Marine Boards.—(Lord Musketry.)


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken has gone into many matters concerning this subject. I do not propose to follow him in the numerous points he has raised. Sufficient for me to say is this, that I feel sure that if the Lord Privy Seal had been here this afternoon he would have taken exception to many of the comments which fell from the noble Lord, and I am inclined to think that he would have stigmatised many of his statements as by no means accurate as regards their facts.

What is it that the noble Lord is anxious to have information upon? He told your Lordships that at the important shipping centres there are not a sufficient number of local marine boards. I might remind the noble Lord that at nearly all the most important seaport towns in the Kingdom— Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Greenock, Hull, Liverpool, and so on— marine boards exist, and where they do not exist machinery has been set up by means of which the duties which would otherwise be administered by local marine boards are carried out. As at present advised, the Board of Trade do not consider it necessary to add to the number of local marine boards, but applications to that end have always received, and will always receive, their most careful attention.

As to the representation of captains and engineers upon the boards, I would remind the noble Lord that under the Act of 1894 six of the members of the local marine boards are elected by ship owners and four are appointed by the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade have always endeavoured in appointing these representatives to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Labour, and have appointed as far as possible persons who are not interested as ship owners or in shipping property. The members of local marine boards appointed by the Board of Trade number sixty-eight in all, and I will tell the noble Lord how they are classified. Twenty - six of them are representative of deck officers, twenty-four of whom are retired master mariners; sixteen are representative of engineers, and eleven of seamen; and fifteen other members are unclassified, most of whom were appointed before the Report of the Labour Commission. I only mention these figures to show that great care has been taken that both masters and engineers are represented on the local marine boards; indeed, from these figures it seems to me they have more representation almost than their proper share.

Finally, the noble Lord was anxious to ascertain whether trades-union officials had been appointed on these boards. I am informed by the Board of Trade that some of the present representatives of seamen appointed by the Board of Trade have been, or are at the present time, trades-union officials; but the Board of Trade consider these gentlemen suitable and representative of their class. The Board of Trade are not aware that any of them have been convicted of any offence under the Merchant Shipping Act during the period they have served in their respective offices. Nor did the Board of Trade see any reason at all to question these appointments, and they are certainly not prepared, as the noble Lord would wish, to cancel them in order to make way for engineers and masters who are already, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, more represented than probably they are entitled to be. I regret that I cannot go more fully into the other points which the noble Lord raised.


AS the noble Marquess the President of the Board of Trade is unable to be in his place, I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw the Motion for the present. I shall bring it before your Lordships again next year.

Motion, by leave of the House, with drawn.