HL Deb 15 June 1906 vol 158 cc1246-7

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether any bodies representing seafarers have entered a protest against the now regulations permitting the deeper loading of British merchant vessels, on the ground that they were given no opportunity of recording their views before these regulations were adopted; and whether, on future occasions of the kind, His Majesty's Government will take into consideration the desirability of obtaining the opinions of seafarers before effecting changes which closely concern the safety of life at sea.

In putting this Question I would like to remind your Lordships that the people who are most interested in the seaworthiness of ships are not the shipowners. The shipowners' interest is only a monetary one, and if the ship is lost in nearly all cases she is fully insured, so that they suffer no loss. It is quite otherwise with those who command and man those ships. It is their lives that are at stake, and should their lives be lost through the unseaworthiness of the vessel, it means distress and destitution to their families. The official Department dealing with these matters seem to have very little regard for the lives of our seamen. They profess to have a regard, but their actions are directly contrary to their professions. I cannot see myself why the lives of seamen should be regarded as of less value than the lives of other members of the community. The men who have the greatest knowledge of, and who are most entitled to be heard on, the question of what constitutes seaworthiness in a vessel are those who man and navigate her, and I venture to say that no such serious action as altering the existing safety regulations should ever have taken place without the Department having heard what captains, officers, and seamen had to say on the matter.


My Lords, by a certain section of the Merchant Shipping Act every British ship has to be marked by a load-line. From time to time, owing to the change in ships and for other reasons, we have to alter the position of this disc. Before, however, making any change in these matters we always discuss them with such bodies as Lloyds British and Foreign Register, the British Corporation for the Survey and Registering of Shipping, and the Bureau Veritas. These are very highly technical subjects, and it is mostly naval architects and gentlemen of that kind who give their opinion. I do not think captains or members of the Guild of whose views my noble friend is an exponent would be competent to give us any advice on the subject, and therefore they are not asked.