§ LORD MUSKERRY rose to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to grievances affecting the commanders and officers of the mercantile marine in respect to insufficiency of pay, inferior accommodation, undue hours of labour, and other matters which are of serious moment to the mercantile marine as a whole; and to move for a Return showing the legal obligations of the owners of merchant vessels trading under the flags of Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Netherlands, Greece, and Belgium towards their captains, officers, and seamen with regard to the following:—Old age pensions, pensions to widows and orphans, accident compensa- 880 tion, Sunday labour, daily hours of labour at sea and in port, payment for work performed in excess of fixed hours of labour, medical treatment, accommodation and passages of distressed seamen; also including in such a Return the regulations of these different countries for the preservation of discipline on board their merchant ships.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the grievances to which I am calling your attention are not new ones. They have for a long time furnished the subject of constant action and representation on the part of the Imperial Merchant Service Guild, and from what I can gather even many shipowners in this country admit that in the way of pay and other conditions their captains and officers are not treated as they should be. As to the position assumed by the Board of Trade, their usual contention is that they have no power to intervene in this, that, or the other subject. Though I am not always disposed to accept such an argument, still if it is really the case that they have no powers of this kind then it is time that they applied to Parliament to obtain such powers. The Board of Trade and other Government Departments are ready enough to intervene in all such matters as those I am dealing with where they concern other industries; but where it is the interests of our mercantile marine and our merchant seafarers which are at stake they will not intervene, neither will they seek the powers that may be necessary to enable them to do so. In other occupations the Government and our Government Departments have gone to quite extraordinary lengths in regulating pay and improving the material conditions of those labouring in great industries ashore. Then why should those employed in our most important industry be excepted?
That captains and officers on our merchant ships suffer through the miserable nature of their pay is unquestionable. As a well-known shipowner stated publicly at Cardiff not long ago—
It has been a great grievance that the officers in our mercantile marine service have been so inadequately paid considering the great responsibility that is attached to masters and the responsible officers and after the loyalty that they have displayed in troublous times. Their efficient service in all parts of the world in the past makes it, I think, only fitting that such loyalty and devotion should be recognised by a more adequate wage.
Sir Walter Runciman, a large shipowner, in a recent speech on the mercantile marine at the Autumn Conference of the Chambers of Commerce, made the following statement—
He wanted to say to parents that he did not know a an occupation which gave such a splendid outlet to their boys as sea-service. The boys would be well accommodated, well fed, and well trained in proper kindly discipline, and they would have robust health. At the end of seven years they could rely upon occupying the position of captain.
It was a matter of no surprise to me that Mr. Moore, the Secretary of the Imperial Merchant Service Guild, promptly denied the truth of such extraordinary assertions. That youngsters after seven years' experience at sea would find themselves in command of merchant vessels was characterised by Mr. Moore as quite too preposterous for the wildest imagination, and he truly stated that ally man getting a command after fifteen years service at sea might consider himself very fortunate. Mr. Moore went on to show how a miner could, if he chose, in a five-days or five-and-a-half-days week, comprising not much more than say forty hours work altogether, with ease earn as much as or more than the chief officer of a large steamer (such as those owned by Sir Walter Runciman) holding a master's certificate, who has spent long years at sea, who has to put in a seven-days week, who is on duty fifteen hours per day, whose sleep is obtained in short snatches of from three to four hours, and who, when in port on the Sabbath day is expected to and does work just as on any other day of the week. In an official statement issued by the shipowners it is stated that "the maritime wage is well understood to cover a seven-days week."
§ Personally, my Lords, I am not at all in favour of the State interfering in any sort of way between employer and employee as regards the fixing of wages, but, as the Government have thought otherwise and have intervened in the matter with regard to fixing a minimum wage for miners, then I do not see logically how you can avoid extending the principle to others, and especially to those who deserve it far more and whose responsibilities are far greater—namely, to the captains and officers of our merchant service. The Government have regulated hours of labour in nearly 882 all our great industries, except the most important one; they have been most zealous in this way in the interests of philanthropy. It is only very recently that they devoted an immense amount of trouble and time to the passing of the Shop Hours Act, but they have never stopped to think for a moment that the officers of our merchant ships have far more serious grievances in this way than shop assistants ever had. As to accommodation for officers and crew on board ship, it is about the last thing thought of in the construction of a ship. No regard whatever is paid to hygienic principles. All that is done is that the spaces provided should be such as can be certified as sufficient under the Act by the Board of Trade ship surveyor, who has no knowledge whatever of hygiene. The accommodation for officers is frequently placed in positions not only far from congenial but insanitary and unhealthy, whilst the space provided is, as my noble friend Lord Ellenborough said on a former occasion, just about sufficient to bury him in. We find that the cubic space allowed to an officer or seaman is 72 cubic feet; but if a mall seeks shelter in a common lodginghouse ashore he must have not less than 400 cubic feet.
The scandalous nature of this accommodation on board ship has been the subject of continual comment on the part of medical officers at certain of our large seaports. For instance, a few months ago the Port Sanitary Committee at Newport, Mon., adopted a resolution to the effect that—
They were strongly of opinion that it was full time that something was done with a view to raising the standard of hygiene at sea, and that the conditions of living, storing of food, nuisance arising from foul contaminations, damp, dark, dirty and ill-ventilated living spaces, foul sanitary arrangements, lack of opportunities for personal ablutions, faulty designs and other matters, must render the merchant service most unattractive to self-respecting individuals who can earn a living ashore, and call for early Government inquiry.
Dr. Herbert Williams, Medical Officer of Health for the Port of London, says that until the Legislature takes some more practical interest in the welfare of seamen pulmonary tuberculosis will continue to be a cause of much mortality amongst this class of men.
Dealing with Sunday labour, it is a national disgrace that the officers of our
merchant ships should be compelled to work on their ships when lying in ports both at home and abroad on the Sabbath-day. We pride ourselves on our humanitarian instincts, but, in spite of this, still allow our officers to be treated in this way, when foreign maritime countries have long ago put a stop to it. I will read two short extracts from a letter just received from the officer of a vessel now abroad. He had evidently seen a letter in the papers from a shipowner in which he compared the holidays of ships officers at sea with the holidays of shore staffs. The officer writes—
We were rather amused at a paragraph comparing ships officers' holidays with the holidays of the 'office' and 'shore stalls', and as a comparison we would like to quote our own ease… We have been in continuous service since … [nearly three years ago], not having had a Christmas Day free; and as for Sundays and other holidays, well we have got into the habit of working on Sundays for the slip and if we got a Sunday free we would not know what to do on that day.
Later on in his letter he says—
I venture to say that there are not many members of an office or shore staff who could say that they have been at work for nearly three years without even a Sunday off.
I will not go into details, but you will find that France, Germany, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and, I think, others will under no circumstances allow their merchant officers to be worked when their ships are in port on Sunday. I exempt sudden stress of wind or where the safety of the ship is concerned. Here is a matter where I suppose the Board of Trade will tell us that they have no powers to act, but I insist that it is their duty to apply for such powers without any further delay.
That these and other grievances are of national moment in seriously affecting the position of our merchant service is quite clear from certain statistics which have been placed in my hands by the Imperial Merchant Service Guild. We are always assured by those representing the Board of Trade that the official statistics are a clear indication that matters are improving in this respect. It is the old story of working statistics in order to show that the Marine Department of the Board of Trade are right in their position of inaction, just the same as was done in connection with the light, load line. In the course of the "Titanic" debate the President of
the Board of Trade stated that he found that the proportion of British sailors had very largely increased, and that all foreign sailors had lamely diminished in the mercantile marine. Mr. Leslie Scott, the spokesman for the shipowners, said in the course of the debate that—
From 1893 to 1903 there had been an increase in the number of foreign sailors in our ships from 29,000 to 40,000. From 1903 to 1911 that balance had been largely diminished, and there were today 30,000 more British sailors than in 1909, and 10,000 foreigners had been replaced by 10,000 British sailors.
"That," Mr. Scott said, "was all very much to the good." Mr. Scott's figures would be very much to the good were it not for other figures which are obtainable from the Quinquennial Return which is issued he the Registrar-General of Seamen, and which is a much clearer, more comprehensive, and more reliable document than those comprised within the Tables relating to Merchant Shipping which are issued annually.
§ From the last Quinquennial Return, issued seven days ago, we find that, very properly, the manning of the mercantile marine is divided into different departments. In this matter we are not concerned so much with departments such as the stewards' department and others. We, I think, need only confine ourselves to what the Registrar-General terms the "sailors' department," and in this department between the years 1891 and 1911 there is a clear reduction of British seamen to the extent of no fewer than 16,221. This statement, I think your Lordships will agree, is very startling, and one which should completely destroy our confidence in the satisfaction expressed by the Board of Trade and the shipowners. Some of your Lordships may not be aware that under the Merchant Shipping Act every person who is on the ship's articles is termed a "seaman"—that is, with the exception of the captain and any apprentices who may be on board. Stewardesses, stewards, hairdressers, barbers, bar-tenders, and all such attendants on passengers are seamen by Act of Parliament. This is, of course, very nice and convenient for all those people who desire to throw dust in the eyes of the nation by making out that British sailors in the mercantile marine are on the increase instead of decreasing. With the building of the enormous passenger liners 885 of the present day there has been all enormous increase in all these, if I may so call them, domestic departments, but there has not been such increase as regards the seamen. Take, for instance, the "Titanic," the largest vessel then afloat. The seamen on board her numbered fifty-eight; the firemen numbered 300; and the other 494 were all composed of what I have termed "seamen by Act of Parliament."
§ Now, my Lords, we are continuing to build fresh ships for the Royal Navy, but, even taking the ships that we have at present, I venture to say that if all of them had to be put in commission it would be impossible to efficiently man them or half man them. Yet while we are providing new ships, a corresponding increase in the personnel of the Navy has not taken place. In the old days the Royal Navy had to depend for her reserves upon the merchant navy, and though times have greatly altered it is the same to-day. The only possible reserve for the Royal Navy is to be found in the seamen of the merchant service, and I venture to point out to your Lordships that should the Navy ever have to fall back on this reserve, as it is certain to do should war arise, then the seamen by Act of Parliament., such as stewards, hairdressers and cooks, are not those who would be required on the battleships. The men required would be the seamen and the stokers.
§ It has been an opinion generally expressed in this House that the Return which was issued four-and-a-half years ago showing the methods of other maritime countries was one of a very valuable and enlightening character, showing, as it did, that British shipowners had in reality much more latitude in dealing with their masters, officers, and men than is allowed to foreign shipowners by their respective Governments. I earnestly hope that such a Return will once again be agreed to, as, beyond a doubt, great developments and changes have taken place in the meantime. Preparation of the Return presents no real difficulties, as all the desired information can readily be obtained by our representatives in the different countries. If your Lordships agree to the Motion, I think I must in fairness ask that the Return should be issued with very much more expedition than the last one. That Return was agreed to by your Lordships on May 28, 1906, and was not ordered to be printed until February 886 17, 1908. There could be no possible excuse for such undue delay, and I hope that the new Return, if agreed to, will be issued with far greater promptitude. In conclusion, let me once again urge upon your Lordships how serious these grievances are as regards the welfare of the merchant service and how they imperatively need urgent and effective attention. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House a Return showing the legal obligations of the owners of merchant vessels trading under the flags of Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, Netherlands, Greece, and Belgium towards their captains, officers, and seamen with regard to the following:—Old age pensions, pensions to widows and orphans, accident compensation, Sunday labour, daily hours of labour at sea and in port, payment for work performed in excess of fixed hours of labour, medical treatment, accommodation and passages of distressed seamen; also including in such a Return the regulations of these different countries for the preservation of discipline on boars their merchant ships.—(Lord Muskerry.)
§ THE FIRST COMMISSIONER OF WORKS (EARL BEAUCHAMP)
My Lords, His Majesty's Government will certainly place no difficulty m the way of the Return for which the noble Lord has moved, and I will certainly see that steps are taken to bring to the notice of the Department concerned the complaint of the noble Lord as to the delay which took place before the last Return was printed and presented to Parliament. I hope that, so far, he will be satisfied with the reply of His Majesty's Government. With regard to his general discussion of the conditions of the mercantile marine, I hope it is unnecessary for me to assure the noble Lord that His Majesty's Government are in no way blind either to the services which are rendered by the officers and men of that service, or to the dangers which they undoubtedly run. Indeed, in this year no one can forget how great those dangers are. But I think the officers may be congratulated very warmly on having so consistent a champion as the noble Lord opposite, who has brought before us to-day, not for the first time, the various complaints which they have to make.
887 The noble Lord specially referred to the question of the pay of the commanders and officers of the mercantile marine. I am not quite sure that when on previous occasions His Majesty's Government have introduced legislation dealing with pay in other occupations it has always met with the unanimous approval of this House. I am not inclined to rely upon the opposition which such a measure would certainly invoke in this House, but I think it would be quite impossible for His Majesty's Government to try to deal by legislation with the pay of the officers of the mercantile marine. If it was necessary I think it would be easy enough to draw a very clear distinction between those classes of labour to which the noble Lord referred and the mercantile marine. Those to which he referred were concerned with a trade which is of vital importance to the country, and without which the life of the country could hardly be carried on. It is not possible to say that in the same way of the service of which the noble Lord specially spoke this afternoon.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
The noble Lord will have an opportunity of enforcing his argument if he wishes to later in this discussion. As Lord Musketry knows, it has been until now the policy of Parliament to allow this question of the wages paid, not only to officers but to seamen generally, in the mercantile marine to be left to the shipowners to settle with the persons whom they themselves employ. The Board of Trade understand that quite lately the Imperial Merchant Service Guild has approached the shipowners with a view of securing increased rates of pay, and that their representations have met with a certain measure of success. There is, however, no official information on this matter within the knowledge of the Board of Trade, although I understand that what I have stated is the fact. Certainly representations have been made lately to the Board of Trade with regard to the accommodation provided for officers on certain vessels, and the Board are obtaining reports of these cases from their officers and they will do their best to consider them. But meanwhile the noble Lord must remember that, provided the minimum requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1906, are complied with, 888 the Board of Trade have no power to interfere.
The noble Lord specially referred to one other question—hours of labour. One of the sections—Section 92—of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, does deal with that question, not directly as to the number of hours of labour, but it deals with the number of officers who should be carried on a merchant vessel, and therefore that indirectly touches on the amount of labour which has to be performed by each of the officers on hoard the ship. As a matter of fact, the minimum requirements of that Act are almost invariably exceeded to a considerable extent by shipowners. It appears from some statistics compiled by the Board of Trade that in the year 1911, with one exception, every foreign-going ship of 4,000 tons or upwards carried three or more mates, as also did two-thirds of the vessels between 2,000 and 4,000 tons. The question of amending Section 92 of the Act of 1894 so as to increase the statutory minimum of certificated officers is at present under the consideration of the Board of Trade. I regret that I am unable to add more than that on the present occasion. If, however, the noble Lord will allow me to make a suggestion, it would be that when this Return has been secured and printed he should, if he desires to do so, raise once more the question in your Lordships' House.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, my only object in making the very mild, and, I hope, friendly interruption in the noble Earl's speech was to give him an opportunity of withdrawing or qualifying a remark which he made, I think, without sufficient thought. I mean when he said that the national life depended more on the coal-mining industry than on our shipping industry. Surely the noble Earl, if he had thought for a moment, would have recollected that a very large proportion not only of our daily bread, of our sustenance, is brought over-seas, but also the raw material with which we manufacture goods and pay for our food. Therefore it is not open to argument that any other industry is more important to the national life than the shipping industry. I did not think that a remark of that kind, as it has not been qualified, ought to pass unchallenged in this House, and that is why I have made these remarks.
My Lords, I agree with a great deal of what has fallen from my noble friend Lord Muskerry, but I cannot concur in his idea that the establishment of a minimum wage would improve matters. It has been rather a failure in dealing with the miners, and I think if you attempted to introduce it into the mercantile marine you would bring about endless trouble and endless strife. The question of Sunday labour has been referred to. Sunday labour is sometimes necessary. It should not be absolutely forbidden but discouraged. The best way to discourage it would be to make extra pay compulsory at a fixed sum per hour, varying in accordance with the rate of wages for each seaman. Contracting out of this should be illegal. There are at least two classes of Sunday labour, one connected with the ship and the other with loading and discharging cargo. There are a number of small repairs and adjustments to engines which cannot be carried out while they are moving. They very often only require three or four men to attend to them. If neglected, the ship would break down, and I think that it would be too hard in face of competition to expect an owner of a ship to delay her for twenty-four hours in order to give a Sunday holiday to three or four men only. All your Lordships who own motor-cars must be aware of the constant touching up and attention that all classes of engines require. I think that it would be sufficient if this Sunday work was discouraged by giving extra pay to the men who either do it themselves or who superintend work done by mechanics hired locally.
With reference to handling cargo, I am glad that Lord Muskerry has put this question as regards foreign countries as it is well to know what restrictions on Sunday labour our trade rivals have submitted to. Some lines of steamers would be seriously affected by restrictions, whereas others would scarcely feel them. very careful inquiries ought to be made before making any legal enactment that would have the effect of stopping Sunday labour altogether, whereas the grant of extra pay per hour would do much to check it without being a very serious annoyance to owners. As, however, the captain of a ship has much to do with the question of Sunday labour, I should except him from the grant of extra pay for fear of his being accused of being unduly influenced whenever he ordered 890 Sunday labour to be undertaken. I would, as I have said, save him from the chance of being wrongly accused in this way by making him the one exception to the people who should receive extra pay for Sunday work.
Complaints are constantly being made about the number of hours that railway signalmen have to work, but little notice is taken of the number of hours that a watch-keeping officer has to be on duty. When ships are run with two watchkeeping officers, one of whom has to be constantly on the bridge, it means a twelve-hours day to begin with. As lie is never below more than four hours at a time, he never gets a. real square sleep, but only snatches of three and a-half hours at a time. But on a long voyage he really has a very fair time of it in comparison with what he has to put up with on a coasting trip. In addition to keeping his watch at sea he has to be on deck both when entering and leaving harbour, and to superintend loading and unloading whether by day or by night. When the loading is completed he must remain on deck while the ship is leaving harbour, and then go on the bridge without the previous rest to which human nature is entitled. There is no limit to the number of hours that an officer may have been continuously at work. I do not complain of this when there is danger or stress of weather, hut I do think that the officers of the mercantile marine have a right to complain when kept at work in this manner as a matter of ordinary routine and in the absence of exceptional circumstances. I think that an Act of Parliament ought to be passed making it necessary to carry three watchkeeping officers in ships above a certain size, and that in the long run owners would find it beneficial, and that they would not he losers in consequence.
Then as to the question of the housing of seamen. Whenever experienced travellers make arrangements for sea voyages of some days they look at the carefully drawn plans, which show the sizes and situation of cabins, saloons, sanitary arrangements, &c., and then they have a pretty fair notion as to what degree of comfort they are likely to get for their money and select cabins according to the size of their purse. On a ship being designed, similar drawings of the housing and sanitation provided for crew and officers should be deposited at the Board 891 of Trade, and when approved of framed, glazed, and permanently hung in a public place just as is done to certain documents in passenger steamers. At present, as far as I am able to ascertain, the Board of Trade do not intervene until the vessel is built. When a ship has already been completed it would cost the owners a great deal of money to make alterations in accordance with the laws of hygiene which at an earlier period would not have been expensive. The situation, ventilation, and proximity to steam winches and other fittings have a great deal to do with the comfort of a living room on board ship. The amount of space of 72 cubic feet, which, as Lord Muskerry informed the House, is now allowed, is far too small for a man to do his sleeping and his eating for the greater part of his life. In 1906, when the last Merchant Shipping Act was before your Lordships' House, I tried to get the space increased, but failed. Another reason why I think the officers of the mercantile marine have a claim upon Parliament is this. They as a body are rightly averse to striking. The men can contrive to get what they want by striking. The mercantile marine officers, however, know that it would be injurious to the country if they did the same, and therefore I think they have a special claim to rely upon Parliament to improve their condition of life.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think my noble friend who has made this Motion will be satisfied at having obtained the promise of His Majesty's Government to give him this Return and to give it to him without the undue delay which characterised the publication of the Return on the last occasion. There was one observation in my noble friend's speech with which I was much struck, and which I was sorry the noble Earl opposite did not deal with. It has to do with the statistics of the progress of the merchant service. We were all gratified the other day to read in the newspapers, upon the authority of the President of the Board of Trade, that the numbers of British seamen in the merchant service had increased over the last ten years, and the newspapers wrote in their ordinary way to say how glad they were that the pessimism of some people had turned out to be wrong and that as a matter of fact we had improved our position very much 892 in this respect. My noble friend Lord Muskerry has made a very severe criticism of those figures, because he pointed out that a large number of the so-called "seamen" in those statistics are not seamen at all, but are other residents in the ship who have nothing to do with what may be called the maritime part of the vessel. I do not for a moment desire to say that their interests ought not to be studied in any discussion or determination as respects the accommodation, for example, in the marine service. They are entitled, of course, to consideration like anybody else.
But when the country is asked to be reassured as to the condition of the merchant service and as to its progress, what is meant, of course, is the maritime part of the merchant service. What we are interested in is to know whether the population of our islands engaged in the calling of the sea is diminishing or in-increasing, and the effect left by the observations of the President of the Board of Trade in another place was that it was increasing, whereas my noble friend shows that it was diminishing. That is a very important matter, and ought not to be lost sight of. I am quite sure that the President of the Board of Trade did not intend for a moment to deceive the country, but this misconception has got abroad. I am very sorry that it should be so. I should have been much happier if the President of the Board of Trade had turned out to be not merely literally but in spirit right. It is, however, much better that we should face the facts, and if it be true that the number of those engaged in the marine service is really diminishing that is a serious matter which, in my humble judgment, ought not to escape the attention of the Board of Trade and of His Majesty's Government.
How does that bear upon the present discussion? My noble friend behind me (Lord Muskerry) who understands this subject, I need not say, far better than I do, and my noble friend who has just sat down have both pointed out that the accommodation, for example, for the officers of the merchant service is not at all luxurious. Indeed, it is very shocking from the point of view of those who study housing on land to know what people have to put up with in the matter of housing at sea. We would he very glad to see that 893 state of things improved, because unless we can improve the conditions of the merchant service we cannot hope that the tendency to which I have called attention of diminishing numbers will be arrested. If we mean that there should be a change in this tendency and that instead of a diminishing service it should be an increasing service, we must hope to improve the conditions of the service. Now the question I should like to put to the noble Earl and through him to the Board of Trade is, Are they satisfied that those conditions ought not further to be improved? What, of course, they have to consider in arriving at a determination on that subject is this—whether if they put a greater burden upon shipowners they would do an injury to the trade; whether the trade can bear the increased expenses which better accommodation would involve. If it could not bear it, the thing falls to the ground.
I am not prepared, certainly at this moment, to advocate a change which would injure the shipping trade of this country. But if it be true, and it may be true, that improvements in the condition both of officers and men of the merchant service could be brought about without throwing an undue burden on shipowners And those engaged in the trade, then I say such changes should occupy the serious attention of His Majesty's Government. I do not want to give the impression to the Government that reckless changes ought to be made without reference to the conditions of the service or to the burden which it already has to bear. All I say is this, that I do not think we can be better employed than in improving, so far as they may be improved safely, the conditions under which the merchant service is carried on, because upon the welfare of the merchant service and upon its progress depends the supply of the maritime population of these islands, and upon the supply of that maritime population must to a large extent depend the trade of our country and the safety of it in time of war.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, the noble Marquess who has just sat down has drawn attention to one or two points in the speech of the noble Lord who has made this Motion, in the first place with 894 reference to an observation made in. another place by my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade with regard to the increasing number of British seamen. On that point it seems to me that the subject rather divides itself into two parts. Lord Muskeriy stated that, as matters now were, those who were described in the Return as sailors were not sailors in the strict sense in which we understand the word, but included persons of all kinds, many of them employed in domestic capacities on board ship. The noble Lord instanced the case of a great passenger liner. It is, of course, quite true that there are on board ships of that kind a great number of persons on the strength of the ship who are in no sense sailors, and so far as they are included in any Return enumerating the number of sailors in the mercantile marine the Return is hound to that extent to mislead the public. That we all admit.
But there is also a further point in connection with this matter—namely, that the whole character of service at sea has as years have passed somewhat changed. That observation could be applied no less to the Royal Navy than to the mercantile marine. In former days a sailor was assumed to be a man on the strength of a ship whose life was spend in going aloft and in the ordinary routine of seamanship, in many cases in a sailing ship and in others in a steamer, which depended also to some extent upon masts and sails. But now, as we know—and this applies equally to the Royal Navy—a very large proportion of a ship's complement are artificers and skilled men in various branches, electricians, and others, rather than seamen as we understand the term, and the fact must apply also to the mercantile marine, that in that sense, too, a very large proportion of the men employed, who would properly be described as forming part of the ship's company, are not sailors in the old-fashioned sense. Therefore it is not quite fair to state, although the fact may have a serious bearing on the consideration which the noble Lord mentioned—namely, that our mercantile marine must be regarded as in some sense the reserve of our Royal Navy—it is not quite fair to regard every man who is not a sailor in the conventional sense of the word as not being available for that purpose, or as not being properly included in a Return such as that which my right 895 hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade made.
As regards the second point to which the noble Marquess alluded, that of accommodation, I am quite certain that the President of the Board of Trade, when he becomes acquainted with the observations which were made by the noble Lord opposite and by the noble Marquess, will desire to give his close attention to this question. It is quite true that to an outsider the figures of cubic space and similar matters mentioned by the noble Lord are somewhat startling in comparison with those with which we are used to deal on land. I think that my noble friend behind me (Earl Beauchamp) stated the fact that the Board of Trade are now engaged in obtaining reports with regard to the accommodation provided for officers of the mercantile marine, and that when they receive these reports they will give close attention to them. As a matter of fact, however, unless further legislation can be introduced the Board are bound, as I have no doubt the noble Lord knows perfectly well, by the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906, which provide a certain minimum space, and if that minimum space is provided the Board of Trade have no further locus standi and no means of interfering. I do not know whether the noble Lord considers that the minima provided in that Act are too low, but he will remember that the Board of Trade are absolutely bound by that Act and cannot exceed its provisions.
That is exactly my point. What I want the Board of Trade to do is to apply for additional powers to remedy these grievances. I thank the noble Earl who replied to me for the answer he gave, and I trust that we shall have the Return shortly in our hands.
I should like to say that I did not blame the Board of Trade at all. The Board of Trade are bound by Section 64 of the Merchant Shipping Act, and it is that section which requires alteration. What I ask is that the Government should amend the law.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.