HC Deb 22 April 1909 vol 3 cc1785-6W

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to a case of illegally supplying a crew for the steamer "Hawnby" on the 23rd March, 1909, at Blyth; whether he is aware that the crew for this vessel was supplied by a pawnbroker named Levi, of hast Holborn, South Shields, assisted by a runner named Webster, who is in Levi's employ; whether this crew signed the agreement in the cabin of the vessel instead of in the proper place—viz., the mercantile marine office; whether he is aware that the Board of Trade official who witnessed the engagement allowed Webster to remain in the cabin and to personally receive the advance notes, which were endorsed and given to Webster in his presence; whether Webster endeavoured to persuade the master to give more than half a month's advance, against which the seamen protested, alleging that they were receiving no value from Levi and Webster for the notes apart from being allowed to engage on the steamer; whether steps will be taken to institute proceedings against Levi and Webster; whether the Board of Trade will deal with the deputy-superintendent for permitting crimping to take place in his presence; and whether, having regard to the crimping which prevailed at ports on the North-East Coast, the Board of Trade will prohibit further engagements taking place on board ships at these ports?


I have obtained a report as to the supply and engagement of part of the crew of the s.s. "Hawnby" at Blyth in March last. I understand that five seamen and four firemen were supplied by the Shipping Federation, not by Levi or Webster, and brought by an officer of the Federation to the vessel, where they signed the agreement in the cabin on the 24th ultimo. The only persons in the cabin at the time, beside the master and the seamen, were a broker's clerk and two officers of the Board of Trade. It appears that when the first seaman asked for an advance of £2 someone standing in the doorway told him to insist on receiving an advance of £2 5s. By order of the Board of Trade officer this man withdrew, and did not again interfere in any way. Advance notes for £2 were in every case given to the men themselves, who did not endorse them or make any protest in the presence of the Board's officers. While I shall be ready to institute proceedings in regard to any case of illegal supply of which there is adequate evidence, I am not prepared to make any alteration in the existing practice of engagement on board ship.