Orders of the Day — Aliens Restriction Bill. – in the House of Commons on 3rd November 1919.
I beg to move to leave out Clause 5. This Clause was added to the Bill in Committee, I believe, by my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). It is always with the deepest regret that I differ from him, but in this case it is absolutely essential that those who do not wish to create international irritation should move for the rejection of this Clause. If the Clause be passed no American will be able to act as master, chief officer or chief engineer of an English ship. That will have the immediate result of profoundly annoying the whole of the American nation. The American nation is going to be a very large maritime nation, with a large merchant service. They will undoubtedly retaliate by having a similar law to this, and we shall have all Englishmen prevented from being masters, chief officers or chief engineers of ships flying under the American flag. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are not allowed now ‡ "] That will mean the definite creation of a split between the Anglo-Saxon peoples, which will be lamentable. But there is more in it than that. If this Clause goes through there may be a large movement among ships now flying the British flag to go under the American or some other flag. It is notorious that the connection between the flag of any company and the shareholders of that company is often very weak now. In many of these companies the Americans hold large blocks of shares. If you go into the Levant you find a great deal of Greek capital in ships flying the British flag. We do not want to have these ships transferred to a foreign flag. At present we have an overwhelming majority of the Merchant Marine of the world. [Cries of "No‡"] I say "yes." What nation has more than we have? We have an overwhelming majority.
My figures are as likely to be correct as the hon. Member's. We have more than twice as much as any other nation. That majority has been obtained by our liberal practice in the past employing those best fitted for the service. Apart altogether from questions of expediency—the question of whether this will not drive ships under a foreign flag and whether this will not cause irritation between ourselves and America—we on these benches believe in the international solidarity of labour We are not here to stir up international jealousies or to draw fine distinctions between different classes of labour. The whole questions is one question throughout the world—the question of Labour against Capital; and we are not going to be parties to any sort of measure which will stir up international jealousy and raise again the old nationalist spirit in order to bring the world into war. Although I know it is perfectly hopeless to press the Amendment, I should not feel that I was doing my duty if I allowed this Clause to go through with out making a protest against it as reactionary and utterly out of keeping with the spirit and the ideals of the League of Nations.
In view of an Amendment which has been put on the Paper by the President of the Board of Trade—an Amendment which I saw in common with other Members only on Saturday—I do not propose to move the Amendments standing in my name on the Order Paper, but later I will move manuscript Amendments. They are in manuscript for the reason that, as stated, I did not see the Government Amendment until Saturday.
I beg to move to leave out the words "except in the case of a ship employed entirely in trade between parts of the world outside the British Empire," and to insert instead thereof the words
or as skipper of a fishing boat registered in the United Kingdom, except in the case of a ship or boat employed mainly in voyages to or from ports outside the United Kindgom:
Provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any alien who has acted as a master, chief officer, or chief engineer of a British ship, or as skipper of a British fishing boat at any time
during the War and is certified by the Admiralty to have performed good and faithful service in that capacity.
(2) No alien shall be employed in any capacity on board a British ship registered in the United Kingdom at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay for the time being current on British ships for his rating.
(3) No alien shall be employed in any capacity on board a British ship registered in the United Kingdom unless he has produced to the officer before whom he is engaged satisfactory proof of his nationality.
(4) Any person who engages an alien for employment on a British ship in contravention of the provisions of this Section shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.
This is obviously a very important Clause for us all very fully to consider. If we were to make a mistake in the decision we arrived at with regard to the employment of aliens on board the Mercantile Marine we might do a great deal of harm to the prosperity of this country. There are several difficult points which, in the Amendment which stands in my name, I have tried to safeguard. We have, first of all, to recognise this fact, that a very large number of ships which fly the Red Ensign are, in fact, largely, and in some cases entirely, owned by foreigners. We have also to recognise that a great many of those ships are employed in parts of the world altogether outside Europe and that they never come to European ports at all, and many of them, from the day on which they are launched, or, rather, from the day on which they sail after launching, until the time they are broken up, never again enter the waters of the United Kingdom. Those ships, many of which, as I have pointed out, are owned by foreigners, and many of which never again come to the United Kingdom ports, constitute a large and valuable section of the British Mercantile Marine. We have had, for example, in the Eastern 'Mediterranean, working not only there but also in the Red Sea, a line of steamships which is owned by British capital, and which trades almost entirely in the Levant, and which goes to Italian ports and occasionally touches Malta. That line is of very great service to British trade and helps in the furtherance and development of that trade. And yet on those boats no passengers who speak English practically ever travel, and no merchants who speak English have to deal very much with the cargoes which those boats are carrying. We get there a class of British ship extremely useful to the nation, helping our trade and yet working
really outside the area in which English is the spoken common language. We have boats of the same line trading in the Red Sea. In other parts of the world there are somewhat similar lines. For instance, there are boats which trade on the Irawadi. Those lines help British trade enormously-. Those are some of the considerations which we had to have in mind.
We have also had to look very carefully at the position with regard to the employment of aliens on board British ships among the masters, officers and engineers, and the numbers which are actually employed are extraordinarily small, considering all the factors which affect the employment of non-British persons in those capacities on British ships. Among the masters, and we have almost exactly 6,000 masters on British mercantile ships, there are only fifty-one who are not British subjects, and many of those have served with great gallantry during the War, and handled their ships with great skill and great personal courage and bravery. There are sonic 10,000 mates in the British Mercantile Marine, and in that number there are only 220 who are not British subjects, and of the 17,000 engineers there are 313, or 1.8 per cent. who were born in foreign countries. Some of those are naturalised, and I am not quite sure, therefore, how many of them are technically aliens. We have also to think of the effect of any change we make in connection with the manning of the Mercantile Marine upon the employment of British seafarers. British seafarers are employed not only in the British Mercantile Marine, but also in large numbers in the Mercantile Marine ships of other nations. We had, for example, a great deal of employment provided for men of British race in ships which pick up crews at ports where they may be left behind or are wanted. Altogether the problem with which we are brought face to face in this Clause is one of very considerable complexity, and there are many different interests which converge upon it.
We have the interests of the Officers' Association which would like to see none but real British-born subjects serving as officers. If that were made a statutory provision there is not the slightest doubt that a considerable amount of tonnage which at present flies the British flag would cease to fly that flag, not from any lack of patriotism, because very likely the owners of that tonnage are not British. If those ships pass from tae flag the effects would be these: Stores mid repairs which are now provided for and carried out on those ships would no longer be carried out or supplied from this country. We have to consider again in the event of another war those ships which in this War were at the disposal of the British Government because they flew the British flag, would not be at the disposal of our Government for requisition. So that we should suffer at once a loss of tonnage, quite inevitably, which in the event of another war would seriously cripple our marine resources. I do not think it is too much to say, and I have the very best authority I could get for making this statement., if all the tonnage which flies the British flag and which is foreign owned had been transferred from the British flag before the War we would not have been able to keep essential services going by sea. Thus we have to consider very carefully any action that we may take which would have the effect of encouraging, perhaps indeed compelling, the transfer of tonnage now under the British flag from that flag. Beyond that Interest of the Merchant Service officers, including masters and engineers, there is the interest of the crews, and those men through their organisation have a. very definite point of view with regard to what their interest is. They are very keen, and one can fully sympathise with them, that no enemy alien, and no German especially, should ever again serve on a British ship, and that point of theirs will be fully met by this Bill if Clause 10 becomes law. Beyond that they wish to see that it is not made possible for aliens to come to this country and accept a lower rate of pay and force down the standard of wages and conditions which they have won. We think that would be fully safeguarded by some such Clause as that which I am about to propose by one of the Sub-sections or my Amendment. They wish also to be sure that there will be no possibility of persons who are in fact hostile or of bad repute as foreigners getting on British ships, and they ask especially that there should he a definite provision inserted in this Bill which would make it essential that every foreign person's identity shall be clearly established before he can be shipped as a member of the crew. That is the system which is now in force, because at the present time the identity of a man shipping rim a Mercantile Marine crew has to be established and the men must have their papers. That is carried out under some of the War Emergency Provisions, and it is desired to make that arrangement permanent. That also is provided for in the Amendment which I have moved.
We have also to think of this subject from the point of view of further changes in regard to the manning of the Mercantile Marine, and to think of that not only from the point of view of the members of the crew or of the officers, but also to think of it from the point of view of the shipowner, and keep the balance even and level between those two interests. That we have tried to do by the manner in which we have drafted Sub-section (2) of this Amendment, which provides that
No alien shall be employed in any capacity on board a British ship registered in the Unit,-d Kingdom at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay for the time being current oil British ships for his rating.
That is the present arrangement and position, and what we are trying to do with that portion of the Amendment is to make good, as it were, the position which has been won by the men and to leave any further changes open for negotiations in the ordinary way between the shipowners and the representatives of the crews. I hope in this Amendment that we Lave managed to strike, as nearly as may be, the line of safety between all the conflicting interests which are at stake. We believe, if this Amendment be adopted, that the interests of those lines which trade outside the waters of the United Kingdom will be sufficiently safeguarded. We believe that under this Amendment the interests of the officers will be safeguarded so far as it is safe rigidly to safeguard them. The percentage of aliens employed is, as I have indicated, extremely low. We believe that under this Amendment We have met, in the proviso to what would be, if adopted, the last part of the first Sub-section of Clause 5, the case of the aliens who have served with distinction in the War. I do not know if it be generally known to the House that quite a number of alien masters were actually decorated for gallant conduct during the War and received the D.S.C. or other honours of the War. I have a list of alien masters who have been decorated in that way during the War before me on the Table. The same is true of alien officers of varying ranks, and the same, I may add, is true of alien members of the crews, many of whom have been
decorated for gallantry on British ships, and without whose gallant and loyal conduct we could never have kept the Mercantile Service running, because of shortage of personnel at a tune when it was necessary to increase so largely the number of men employed in the Royal Navy. Therefore in the proviso we ask the House to safeguard the interests of those men who can definitely be certified as having performed good and faithful service during the War. I am sure that that will appeal to the general sentiment of the House as an absolutely necessary and fair thing to do. There is one point further which our Amendment does, and that is, as the Home Secretary undertook, that it brings the skippers of fishing boats registered in the United Kingdom and fishing in United Kingdom waters into the same position as masters, chief officers, or chief engineers of British merchant ships will be if the Clause be adopted. That, I am sure, is a right and proper addition to make to this Clause.
I would like to ask the President of tile Board of Trade why he has substituted the word "mainly" for the word "habitually" in the Amendment I. except in the case of a ship or boat employed mainly in voyages to or from ports outside the United Kingdom, and I think the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, I think we all realise that it is unnecessary and undesirable, and that it would be unduly hampering the traffic in the East, to insist upon the Bill as it left the Committee without any limitation; but I think the word "habitually" would meet the case, and the word "mainly" seems rather a weaker word. We all agree that we must protect this particular kind of traffic and must not by a general direction interfere with a very large trade which is being done in the East, and which can only be done under the condition of employing alien seamen. I want to have it perfectly clear that it shall deal with ships, I will not say exclusively, but I prefer the word habitually," employed in voyages to or from ports outside the United Kingdom and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we ought not to water it down in the least degree when we have attained the object which we had in view.
I fancy that the President of the Board of Trade would not have any very great objection to acceding to the reasonable request of my hon. and learned Friend. This Amendment has somewhat taken the House by surprise. Most hon. Members did not know anything about it till this morning, and those whom the Board of Trade were good enough to consult on this matter received no intimation of any kind that a very serious alteration of a fundamental character was to be made in the agreement which was arrived at. In some respects tins Amendment, no doubt, is an improvement on the Bill, and it certainly meets the feeling of many of the constituents, for instance, of my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) in that it includes the skippers of fishing boats. In recent days there has been a very considerable feeling with regard to the position of aliens on trawlers and fishing boats operating from this country, and in that respect I think my right hon. Friend has wisely gauged the feeling of the house, but I would venture to call the very serious attention of the House to sonic aspects of the Amendment which, if they are persisted in, will constitute a blow of the most severe kind at the remoter activities of the British Mercantile Marine. My right hon. Friend was correct when he said that in the first Sub-section of his Amendment he has made an improvement by excluding from the scope of that Sub-section vessels employed mainly in voyages to or from ports outside the United Kingdom. But when we come to Sub-section (2) we find a very different state of affairs. The House is here confronted with one of the most delicate and difficult problems which came before the Peace Conference.
May I illustrate this point from actual instances of what happens in certain parts of the world? There was before the War, and I hope there will be again very soon, a regular line of steamers running from Port Said right tip to Constantinople. These steamers trade from Port Said to Jaffa, Beyrout, Alexandretta, Mitylene, the Dardanelles, and Constantinople. There are other steamers which run through the Greek Islands, and there are two or three services exclusively confined to the Red Sea. Take the Red Sea services. You cannot possibly ask men to spend their lives in the stokehole of a ship which never comes home, and spends all its time in the Red Sea. You have there, on account of climatic necessities, a class largely of non-British Arab labour, and given equal conditions these men are per- haps nut one-third so efficient as a British man would be if he could stick it, but they have got to be employed. If the effect of this Sub-section is to double or triple the cost of running a British ship in these trades, then I think my right hon. Friend is not justly gauging the desires of the House in inserting such a provision. The effect of that would be almost instantaneous. The trade would continue to be done, but British ships would at a blow be placed out of the running altogether. The trade would be done, and the ships would be manned by these nationalities, but it would be done under a foreign flag, and I would ask hon. Members to consider what that means to this country. Today, on account of the position of freedom and elasticity in which we have placed the British Jereantile Marine, we have ships under the British flag which never see this country and are operating in the remotest parts of the world, but in a time of crisis every one of these ships can be called home to feed and defend the population of these islands, and if we make it impossible economically to operate these ships in competition with foreign ships in the tropics then we shall he handing over to the foreigner the British trade in the tropics, and we shall do not one atom of good to a single British working man.
These are some of the problems to which I would most respectfully and earnestly-invite the attention of my right hon. Friend. I see upon the bench with him my hon. and gallant Friend who represents the Ministry of Shipping (Colonel Wilson). I know how sincerely he has, as his chief has, the interests of the British Mercantile Marine at heart, the interests not of the shipowners, not merely of the seamen, but of that vast organisation which means so much to the safety and prosperity of this country, and I would ask him to give us before we pass this Clause some assurance that we will not be doing what the House, I am sure, would never dream of doing if it were kept properly informed by the Government, namely, putting the British Mercantile Marine in these remote voyages out of the running with the foreigner. May I illustrate the delicacy of the point from the Peace Treaty l We are dealing here with a class of trade in which the men employed cannot reasonably be said to be in competition at all with British labour we are dealing with a trade where the cost of living bears no comparison to the cost of living in this country. We come into an entirely dif-
ferent atmosphere when we get into these purely foreign trades, and that is realised by the Peace Conference, for the most elaborate precautions are taken in the. Peace Treaty for a conference of the various Powers to meet and go carefully and scientifically into these matters. May I quote to the House a few words from Article 405 of Part 13 of the Treaty—
In framing any recommendation or draft Convention of general application, the Conference' shall have due regard to those countries in which climatic conditions, the imperfect development of industrial organisation, or other special circumstances make the industrial conditions substantially different, and shall suggest the modifications, if any, which it considers maybe required to meet the case of such countries.
My complaint against my right hon. Friend's Amendment as it stands is that it does not have due regard to these very delicate and very important points. Further, in Article 427, the general principles which are to govern a careful and scientific investigation of this part of the question are laid down, and the third of these general principles is this:
The payment, to the employed of a wage adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of-life as this is understood in their time and country.
I presume that the time is not yet, come when one can move an Amendment to the Amendment, and that any Amendments to the proposed words will have to wait until the Question is put from the Chair, "That those words be there added." If I am right in that supposition, I think, however, I am entitled to mention to the House the Amendment which I would propose to safeguard the position of ships in which there is really no competition between the labour employed and British labour, and in which there can be none. In Subsection (2) of the Amendment of the President of the Board of Trade, after the words "United Kingdom," I should propose to insert the words "to which Subsection (1) of this Section applies." That would make it clear that vessels plying in entirely different parts of the world could not have these exclusive and rigid rules applied to them. I hope my right hon. Friend will accept that for the reasons I have stated, and also words at the end in order to safeguard the position of certain well-known classes of people, like the Goanese, about which I shall tell the House something on another opportunity. I should propose to insert the words
Provided that where the Board of Trade are satisfied that aliens of any particular race, other than former enemy aliens, are habitually
employed afloat in any capacity or in any climate for which they are specially fitted, nothing in this Section shall prejudice the right of aliens of such race to be employed on British ships at rates of pay not below those current for their services.
The advantage of that would be that it would be recognised that these questions are matters for discussion and settlement at the conference which the Peace Treaty lays down, and, in the meantime, if any of these aliens are employed on British ships, they cannot be employed at rates lower than the rates which their services would command elsewhere. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade and the representative of the Ministry of Shipping to give us some assurance that nothing will be done that would lead to most serious damage to the Mercantile Marine on which the prosperity of this country depends.
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down is not labouring under a misapprehension. I am honestly puzzled myself. When I read this Clause on Saturday, I took it that Sub-section 42) was covered by the words at the beginning of the Amendment, "except in the case of a ship or boat employed mainly in voyages to or from ports outside the -United Kingdom." I understood fiat that covered Sub-section (2). If that is true, 1 think the main objection of my hon. Friend fells to the ground.
There is another point. In the service to which I had the honour to belong, the Royal Navy, we employ in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf a. number of Kroo boys and Sidi boys precisely for the reason that climatic conditions make it necessary, but they are paid as Kroo and Sidi boys as a separate rating in the Navy, and I think that could reasonably he made to apply in the case of the Mercantile Marine. That, I think, cuts out the objection, but certainly these people could not be economically employed at the same wages as the British. They have not the physique or anything else, but they receive the standard rate as Kroo or Sidi boys or Lascars, which is recognised by the Seamen and Firemen's Union. Possibly my hon. Friend opposite might confirm that. Be that as it may, I would like to ask for an assurance from the President of the Board of Trade with regard to the words of his Amendment which cut out from this Act any alien who served faithfully and well in any capacity during the War. I would like an assurance that this will not apply to certain aliens who are now commanding British fishing trawlers, and who were engaged during the War by trawler-owners, were paid at the rate of a. shilling a month and got the uniform simply to protect them in case they were captured enemy submarines, as the enemy attempted to terrorise any seamen who were found fishing in certain areas. These men were fishing in comparatively safe parts of the sea, and were in exactly the same position as an alien, or civilian for that matter, who took the small business of a soldier who joined the Colours All Members of the House know that a Committee was set up specially to safeguard the rights of soldiers who left their shops or small businesses to join the Colours, to prevent strangers—aliens, of course, among them, but even civilians of our own country—from stepping in and taking their businesses. For that reason any soldier coining back has to get a licence at some pains and trouble to reopen his business.
These men, who are mostly members of the Scandinavian nations, are in exactly the same position. Owing to the great number of skippers, second hands, and trained fishermen employed by the Royal Navy in submarine and mine hunting, there was a shortage of qualified skippers for trawlers, and these extremely lucrative posts were taken by aliens, who now hold them, and who were nominally enrolled in the Royal Navy for their own protection. I do not think the House will recognise that that was good and faithful service entitling them to continue in these positions, because our skippers, who have been doing most arduous service—minesweeping, submarine hunting, and so on —have come back and cannot get boats, as these boats are commanded by Danes and Norwegians, and they feel, quite naturally, and I think justifiably, that while they were away saving their country their posts have been taken. I think we are entitled to an assurance—at any rate I would like one that this will not include those men, who did not fight for us, but simply earned large sums fishing, and got their temporary uniform and a. shilling a month from the Admiralty in order to safeguard them in the remote case of capture. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the feelings of the fishermen are very strong on this matter. I ton very glad to see the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Tickler) here, as he will bear me out. They do feel strongly that these men, who were not fighting, shall not be excluded from this Act, because there is a lot of fear, and almost indignation, amongst many fishermen on that- particular point.
Me. HAVELOCK WILSON:
I crave the indulgence of the house, as it is rather difficult for me to get up, and I have to do my talking sitting down. With regard to the Amendment now before the House, I hope the Government will stand by it as it appears on the Paper. I came into the House when the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) was telling a very long story about the effect this Clause is going to have on certain persons who a-re employed in the Red Sea. It so happens there are very few British ships which go to the Red Sea and employ Sidi boys. As a rule the tramp steamers arc manned by the ordinary European crew, but if it is necessary to employ these Sidi boys and others, and they do this useful work, I see no reason why the British shipowners should not pay a decent rate of wages to them. I do not want to see any legislation that is going to exclude any particular class of men from employment on British ships, because it so happens now that Britishers are obtaining employment on foreign ships. Only this week I have had a report from the Bristol Channel of some thirty or forty British seamen who have found employment on Scandinavian ships, of course, at the British rates of wages, and I think it would be a very bad thing indeed for Labour if the mobility of labour were destroyed. What we want to safeguard, 1 think, on British ships and in employment on shore is that aliens are not brought in to lower the standard of living of the people of this country, and to provide, as this does, that aliens shall not be employed to lower the standard rate of wages, is not striking a blow at any nationality. They are all welcome to come. Bat this does lay down as a condition of employment that the men must be paid the standard rate of wages. I cannot see any substantial argument at all in the speech of the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, because the numbers of the foreigners he has mentioned who are employed on British ships are very few indeed, and if you seek to omit them men from the Act you admit hordes of Chinamen, who are the principal competitors of the British. I do not mean Chinamen who are British subjects, but I mean Chinamen who are aliens to this country. After the services which the seamen of this country have rendered to the Empire, they are entitled at least to that reasonable protection for their labour, and if it is a fact that these China-men can do the work so-much better than the Britishers, let them be paid a liberal wage, and not a sweated wage. For that reason I do hope my right hon. Friend will stand by the Amendment as it appears on the Paper. It is reasonable; it does not strike at any nationality. It simply lays down a principle that those men who come into our ships shall receive a proper standard rate of wages, and for that reason I support the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, and I hope the House will support it.
Like other Members, on arriving here this afternoon I found the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade on the Paper. I was agreeably surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman had taken this matter up. This is a question which has exercised the minds of the fishermen of Grimsby very considerably of late. The Grimsby fishermen, as the House well knows, have done their bit in the War. They have done their part nobly and well. They have had the thanks of this House on several occasions, voiced by Ministers. I want to ask the President concerning a small point, and the answer, I doubt not, will be very highly appreciated by the fishermen of Grimsby. They are very anxious indeed that the skippers of fishing vessels should be included in this Amendment. I want to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to make a slight alteration, and in the second Section of his Amendment to follow the words "chief engineer of a British ship" with "or the skipper or a mate of a British fishing vessel." The reason I ask for this is because the mate, as we all know, has to take the place of the skipper if anything should happen to the latter whereby he cannot perform his duties. In that circumstance the mate has to bring the ship into port. Another thing: The mate, with the skipper, has a share in the earnings of the vessel. Therefore, he is equally interested in the working of the ship as is the skipper. There is a very strong feeling in Grimsby that the mate should be included with the skipper, and put on an equal footing.
These men at the present time have come from mine-sweepers and have been demobi- lised. They have come back to Grimsby, where, we all know, many fishing vessels have been sunk during the War. Consequently, there is great scarcity of vessels and a considerable surplus of men who man these vessels. They consider it very hard when they see an alien occupying the post to which they think they are justly entitled. They resented this previous to the War These men to whom I refer have come over, as frequently they do—or did—on alien ships to land their catch at Grimsby for the market, and many of them have been in the habit of staying and taking a situation on board English trawlers, and eventually they have risen to the position of skipper or mate. The Grimsby fishermen would like to find that we have learnt something from the War. During the War these aliens were not seen on fishing vessels. They were allowed on mercantile ships, but not on fishing vessels, because these were trawling about, and dodging up and down, and the men on them were calculated to become possessed of information which might be valuable to the enemy. We in Grimsby would like to see that prohibition extended in time of peace. We know very well that the fishermen know every inch of the North Sea and, consequently, if an alien is in charge of a fishing trawler, he gets to know the seas as well as an Englishman. The consequence is that when the time of war comes—and we hope it will be a long time again before we have war—he is in a position to communicate valuable information to the enemy. We know this was done in the late War. Therefore, I make this appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to give us this concession, which I assure him will be highly appreciated by the men of Grimsby.
I am in favour of the Clause as amended by the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. But I should like to ask one or two questions so as fully to understand what it means. The hon. Gentleman who lately spoke (Mr. Havelock Wilson) knows that all through the controversies of the last ten years I have through thick and thin maintained that we did not employ Chinese because of their cheapness; I have said over and over again that I myself employed them simply because of their efficiency and because there was not a sufficiency of British seamen to man British ships. Of all the aliens, I have found the Chinese the most efficient. Shipowners are agreeing to this Clause—quite a large body of them; and if anything were wanted to prove what I state it is the fact that we are all agreeing that the wages shall be up to those of the British seamen. It may be, or may not, that those who think that when the wage is raised the Chinese will be thrown out of British ships altogether, but many of these Chinese whom we have employed are not aliens. Some were amongst the best workers or employâs we could get. There has nut been interference, so far as I can see, with the employment of aliens on shore. It puzzles me, however, to know why the most cosmopolitan and most international trade should be hampered and hindered in the selection of those who perform its services. So far, though, as this Amendment of the Government goes, I am in favour of it. Might 1, however, ask for information upon Sub-sections (2) and (3)?
Does the first mean in relation to the standard rate of pay that a Lascar is to be paid the same wage as a British seaman? A great many of them are employed. The Sub-section is rather indefinite. I have consulted several of my colleagues, and none of us are quite certain of what is the exact meaning of this Sub-section. We shall be glad if the President would be kind enough to clear up the dubiety. There is another point in this connection. There are Lascars who are British subjects. They are employed on Eastern steamers. Then, again, there is the question of whether the Goanese have to be brought up to the same standard as the Lascar. Then, again, as regards some of the Eastern vessels, they only come home, perhaps, every four or five years to be overhauled, and in the hot climates they are almost entirely manned by those who are British subjects. Again, the vessels which trade between Boston and Jamaica.
There is another point in Sub-section (3) as to satisfactory proof of nationality before employment. It says that the alien, Before being employed, shall produce to the engaging officer satisfactory proof of his nationality. This is a Clause which might give rise to a very great deal of delay, argument, and fighting with shipping masters. Seamen do not, as a rule, go about with their birth certificates in their pockets. What is the evidence that is aimed at or that is required from any alien at the shipping office? Take a Chinaman, for instance—and I want to be quite frank—I do not suppose any China- man living carries about his birth certificate. You have only the man's word against that of the shipping master, who may say that the applicant is riot a British subject, may say he is a German.
This question is likely to give rise to constant argument. I do not know what evidence the Government desire. Ships, when the crews are on board, are under an obligation to sail at once, and it is a very serious matter, especially in these times, to hang up a ship for even a day. I have known ships hung up for over a clay over a trifle. I want to get clear on this point, so as to avoid any struggling of shipowners with Government Departments and shipping masters. If we know what we have to do we shall be prepared for it I am trying to make these practical points of a shipowner in daily practice who knows the difficulties which we constantly are up against. I should think it rather hard that Regulations should be framed that are not definite, and I should like to know what these really mean, so that I can provide myself against the contingency. I trust the Government will substantially hold to this Amendment, May I remind the House that if British ships had been confined to cargoes that are carried throughout the British Empire, instead of having more than 50 per cent. of the whole of the fleets of the world before the War, we should scarcely have had a quarter? So hon. Members will see that British ships are not only carrying the Empire trade, but the trade of the whole world. It does not, therefore, behave the British Government or the British nation to put impediments in the way of this great enterprise of providing a magnificent fleet of mercantile ships which will be available; that itself was not sufficient, because we had to go outside British shipping altogether, and hon. Members know the enormous rates we had to pay in comparison with that paid to British shipowners.
The Government are quite willing to accept this Amendment. I may point out that the word "mainly" was inserted by the Parliamentary draftsman. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman opposite will formally move his Amendment later, and the Government will accept it. The Government has done everything that lies in its power to meet the wishes of hon. Members in regard to this particular of this proposal to the British Mercantile Marine. This Clause was introduced in Committee upstairs, and it has been my duty to inquire as to how it would affect the British Mercantile Marine and with the information available from officers' associations and owners, and the help of those who have been interested all their lives in the Mercantile Marine, I came to the conclusion that one had to proceed very carefully otherwise we might do more harm than good.
The way in which this Clause has been received has been very gratifying, and criticism has only peen directed against Sub-section (2). That, however, has not been serious, although it perhaps needs some explanation. My right hon. Friend, in introducing this Amendment, said the object of Sub-section (2) was to secure that there should be no forcing down of wages by the introduction of a foreign element into the Mercantile Marine, and it is with the object of carrying out that idea that this Sub-section has been introduced. The National Maritime Board has been dealing with the question of these rates, and the object of this Sub-section is to affirm and confirm the present state of things. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the words of this Sub-section which are "at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay for the time being current on British ships for his rating." The National Maritime Board laid down the conditions for the payment of coloured men and Asiatics and other seamen, but I want the house to clearly understand this question of a standard rate. There is no agreement to pay a standard rate except to the officers and men who sign on at any port at home.
That is not so under Subsection (2) of the President of the Board of Trade's Amendment.
The intention of this Amendment is to affirm and confirm the present state of affairs, and to ensure that no alien ship employs or signs on men in this country at a lower rate of wage than the standard rate at present paid. Whatever one's wishes might be to ensure this standard wage being paid to men who signed on in ports abroad, that is impossible for us to achieve. The standard rate is different in different countries. In some countries the wages are higher and in some they are lower. It is obviously desirable, and I think hon. Members will thoroughly agree with my statement, that our men in this country should not be handicapped by the alien coming in and serving on board our ships at a lower rate of wage. I had a case only the other day in which there was a ship signing on stewards at Southampton, and a large number of aliens were being signed on at a lower rate of pay, and the reason given for this was that those men could speak the language of the passengers, the majority of whom were foreigners, and that Britishers were not available. In that case I am glad to say that the union concerned did not allow the ship to sail because the men were being signed on at a lower rate, and we want to stop that by this Amendment. If it is impracticable for the ship to sail because of the language question, it is only just that the men should be signed on at the rate of wage payable to the Britisher in a similar case. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Tickler) will be moved later. With regard to the question raised by the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Raeburn) Sub-section (3) prevents any alien totally excluded under Clause 10 coaling in by transferring to some other nationality. If this Subsection were not introduced it would be quite possible for enemy aliens to transfer their nationality, and then pass into the British Mercantile Marine. The question of the nationality of the Chinaman is a very difficult problem.
It is so, as the nationality of a Chinaman can only be determined out in China, because he carries his nationalisation on his tombstone, and he cannot bring his tombstone to this country. That is the difficulty.
The tombstone is that of his ancestors. The Hong Kong Chinaman is a British citizen, but all Chinamen do not come from Hong Kong I think this Section will do a great deal, and I hope it will entirely prevent any aliens coming in under the guise of belonging to any other nationality. I hope the House will accept the Amendment as it stands. I can assure hon. Members we have gone very carefully into this matter, fully realising the vital importance of this Clause to the British Mercantile Marine, and I am quite sure we have gone as far as we ought to go.
May I have an answer to my question about the one shilling a month paid to alien skippers on trawlers?
I know those cases well, and it was paid to others than by those mentioned by the lion. and gallant Gentleman who went abroad, and they were paid one shilling a month. I do not think any further assurance is required than that which is given under this Amendment, and every case will be considered on its merits. It is not intended that any such men shall be detained under this Sub-clause. I would also point out that every case has got to be certined by the Admiralty that the man has performed good and faithful service in that capacity. The men referred to will not come under that category, and, therefore, I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend need have any anxiety on that subject.
The difficulties of the Government have been very great. As my hon. Friend has already stated, this deals with a great international trade by the British Mercantile Marine, and it has built up this great trade mainly owing to its freedom from restrictions in the past. I might remind the House that the British Mercantile Marine never began to grow rapidly until the repeal of the navigation laws, and it was the removal of those restrictions that produced the Great British Mercantile Marine which we possessed before the War, and which was doing half the carrying trade of the world. Therefore, I think the House ought to be very careful before it does anything to jeopardise the British Mercantile Marine. I maintain that while the Government has gone a long way towards meeting the wishes of those associations and those hon. Members who feel strongly, as I do, about enemy aliens, I think that to go any further might put the Mercantile Marine in danger. Therefore, I ask the House to accept the Amendment which has been moved by my right hon. Friend.
I think the words "to or from" should be omitted, and the word "between" inserted. This appears to me to be a very serious flaw in the wording of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. A large portion of the voyage of every ship is taken up going to or from ports outside the United Kingdom, and I was going to suggest that instead of the words "to and from" the word "between" should be used; otherwise you knock the bottom out of the whole of our enterprise.
I am sure the House has been impressed by the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Wilson) and with the necessity for carefully protecting the interests of all concerned in the great British Mercantile Marine, and I think the House is in general agreement that this Clause has been carefully thought out so as to protect all legitimate interests. May I just call the attention of the House to a resolution which has been passed by a very representative body and which in some respects does not quite conform to the Clause? It is a resolution which was recently carried by the Seafarers Joint Council, which, as the House knows, is representative of nearly all the associations which represent every rank and every rating in the British Mercantile Marine. It has on its body people associated with no less than nine different associations representing chief officers, chief engineers, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and other bodies. They expressed the very strong opinion that the prohibition of aliens from being officers of the British Mercantile Marine should not be confined to masters and chief officers and chief engineers, but should extend to all officers and all engineers. I presume that my right hon. Friend has considered the question of extending the prohibition to all officers and all engineers, and, for myself, I think it is a pity that we could not so extend it and then make special exceptions to meet special Hoes of ships and special cases of individuals. I would, however, recall my right hon. Friend's attention to that resolution and ask if it is now too late to consider it.
We were told that we might have reprisals if we went too far. I expect that foreign nations already adapt their shipping laws to their own special advantage, and, if they considered that they could have any more advantageous shipping laws than they have at present, they would not be very much affected by such alterations as we make in our shipping laws. For instance, the United States, France, and Greece already prohibit aliens from being masters, officers, or engineers on their ships; they insist that they should all be nationals of their own country. If we were to enact that, I do not think that we should provoke any reprisals from them, One does not see how one could. The only other point to which I wish to draw attention arises in regard to Subsection (1) of the Amendment standing in the name of the President of the Board of Trade, where he makes a special exception in favour of a ship employed mainly on voyages to and from ports outside the United Kingdom. I have an Amendment on the Paper to cut out that Sub-clause and make the Clause prohibit the employment of aliens as masters, chief officers, and chief engineers apply to all British ships between whatever ports they trade. I recognise, however, that is probably going too far. It is only a small percentage of the officers who will be affected, and one has to consider whether it would not be to their disadvantage to make such a provision as has been suggested. I quite follow what my hon. Friend said as to the wording of the Sub-section, and his suggestion of the word "between" instead of the words "to and from," and perhaps the Government will consider it. But when I find representatives of such interests as those for whom the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Rae-burn) and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Wilson) supporting this Clause, 1 confess that it removes from my mind any lingering impression that it might not be going far enough. When I see there my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields, who throughout the War has been, and who is still, so staunch a supporter of the Mercantile Marine officers and men, and who has done such splendid service in the War, I am. quite confident that I shall not be going too far if I congratulate the Government upon having produced a Clause which has caused general satisfaction.
I should like to say one or two words on this subject, because I belong to that very much maligned class the shipowners, though I should like to mention that I can speak from an impartial point of view, because none of the firms to which I belong employ any aliens whatsoever. I should like, if it were possible, for the whole of the British Mercantile Marine to be manned entirely by 13ritishers but I think a great mistake is often made and misapprehension often caused by Members and other people outside treating the prohibition of the employment of aliens on British ships on the same footing as keeping aliens out of this country. The idea of keeping aliens out of this country
is to prevent a low scale of living and the unemployment of Britishers. When you come to shipping, however, you are dealing with an international question, and it is quite impossible to deal with it on the same lines. I should like to congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on the Amendment which he proposes, because I believe it goes very far towards meeting the views of everyone on this question. I heartily approve of all captains, chief engineers, and officers being Britishers, and I believe that by having chief officers and chief engineers Britishers we shall go a long way towards ensuring that all other officers will be Britishers, because an alien, knowing lie cannot rise higher than second officer or second engineer, will not so readily enter British service. But it is quite impossible to do move than has been done in this Amendment as regards the crew. That is a most difficult question, and I think the Amendment meets the case. I should like to ask one question. I am not quite clear about Sub-section (2), which says,
No alien shall be employed in any capacity on board a British ship registered in the United Kingdom at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay.
There is now a standard rate of pay in this country for engaging crews, and I understood from what was said just now that the Amendment confirms practically the same conditions as those in force at the present. time, and that if people engage a Chinese crew in China they would come under the same conditions as at present, although, as I interpret it, this Sub-section does not read in that way. It says, "No British ship registered in this country," but it says nothing about crews signing on. That is a point which I should like cleared up, because I am not at all clear with regard to it at present. I do not think that any case has been put forward that all crews should be entirely British, but undoubtedly it has been shown on every hand that it is impossible, if we are going to maintain the position that we have had in the shipping world, not to have a certain number of foreigners engaged as the crew, and as long as they get the same standard of wages I am sure that British seamen would not object, especially seeing that they manned many of our ships and fought for us during the War. After having used them during the War, it would be very in-
judicious now that the War is over to tell our Allies and friendly foreigners that we have no further use for them. Besides being impracticable, it would be impolitic to press for the crews being entirely British. The Clause put forward by the President of the Board of Trade, to my mind, entirely meets the case and prevents any feeling that could possibly exist that British seamen were not getting fair treatment and fair play.
I want to support the last speaker as to the necessity of some further explanation of Sub-section (2). It is not the explanation of the Government that matters in this case; it is the legal interpretation of the words, and, although understood from the Parliamentary secretary to the Shipping Controller that he was meeting the case so far as the intentions of the Government are concerned, I want to submit that the words as now down do not carry out those intentions. It is not clear whether the Sub-section carries out the intention of making an exception in the case of ships employed mainly to and from ports outside the United Kingdom. That is not clear, and the other point is certainly not clear. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping gave the House to understand that lie intended only to apply it to men who signed on in this country. I submit that is not the effect of the words, and before we accept this Clause the house ought to know that the intentions of the Government are legally expressed. I do not think that they are at the present time. It is a very important point, and the House ought to be very careful how they accept the Government Amendment.
I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend who has just sat down. I will go a little further and say that judging from the speech of the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wilson) the Government do not understand their own Amendment, or, if they do, they are anxious that the House shall not understand it, because he has made statements which may perhaps be soothing to all the Members who have a doubt upon the matter but which are not at all verified by the Amendment as it stands. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) said that my hon. Friend (Sir W. Raeburn) approved the Clause, but I do not think that he did. I listened with very great pleasure to my hon. Friend, as I always do, because all his speeches are most illuminating; but my hon. Friend seemed to me to be anxious that the Chinese should have the same wages as Englishmen and that Lascars should not. That was the object of his speech. But as I understand it under this Amendment Lascars, if they are aliens will get the same wages as English seamen, but, if they are English subjects, it is doubtful whether they will, and in any case the Chinese will be better off than the English. Therefore, I do not think that my hon. Friend really did support the Amendment as it stands.
My doubt was the same as that expressed by my hon. Friend (Major Cayzer). I do not think that the Clause is at all clear. I know what the Government mean, but a Court of Law might take an entirely different view, and the purport of my speech was to find out what they do mean and to see that they put it clearly in the Clause.
That is quite correct. Let us, first of all, ascertain what the Government mean, and, having ascertained that, let us put it in the Clause. I do implore the House not to be led away by any assertion of the Government that the Clause means this or that. Let us put it in the Clause. We may have a change of Government or we may have other Ministers in these particular posts, and then we shall only have the Clause to which to refer. It will be no use bringing up the OFFICIAL REPORT and saying that the hon. and gallant Gentleman or the President of the Board of Trade said so and so. If it comes to a Court of Law, they will say, "All we have got to look to is the Act." Let us only look to the Act. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said in effect the Lascars would be paid the same rate as the British seamen, because there was a rating made for them. Now this rating is laid down by the Ministry of Shipping, it may or may not be in conjunction with the shipowner, and it may be altered at any moment, but this Amendment as it stands does not allude to any rating which has been laid down. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman says that when they sign on certain things will occur; yet, again, there is nothing in the Amendment about signing on at British ports. What we have been suffering from of late has been a mass of ill-digested legislation not understandable by anybody. The hon. Member for South Shields is naturally anxious that there should be no undue competition with British seamen. I have never employed an alien all my life except for one single fortnight, and then I promptly got rid of him. It may be necessary in the interests of shipping in some cases to employ aliens. It may be that if this Amendment is passed in its present undigested form trade may pass from the hands of this country to foreign nations. We are dealing, as my hon. Friend said just now, with a most important Amendment affecting a far-reaching trade, and it is therefore most important before it is passed we should see that it is placed in an intelligible form. One of my hon. Friends said he thought time first part of the Amendment applied to Sub-section (2). I am not a lawyer, but I have had a good deal of experience of Bills passed in this House, and I will venture in the absence of any Law Officer of the Crown—I do not know why these learned Gentlemen are all away on an occasion like this—to take upon myself the place of one of them and to express my opinion that the first part of the Amendment does not apply to Subsection (2), but merely to the words preceding it and not to those following it. In my opinion it would be read by any judge as applying only to the words that go before it. Under these circumstances I trust that the House will accept an Amendment which I understand is to be moved later on, and which it is hoped may make the Intention of the Government quite clear.
I do not want to attack the Amendment which has been submitted by the Government, neither do I want to enter into a discussion as to the definition and exact meaning which might be placed upon the words of the Amendment. I have tried to give my best attention with a view of finding out what is really intended, how the Amendment is to be applied, and what will be its ultimate effect, and I have come to the conclusion that it is a fair and reasonable Amendment from the seaman's point of view. There are two interests to be considered. There is the interest of the shipowner, and there is also the interest of the seamen—[An HON. MEMBER: "And the public‡"]. For the moment we are dealing with the interests of the shipowner and seamen only. I was rather astounded in the earlier part of the proceedings to hear the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Sir W. Raeburn), make what was to me a very sensational statement, to the effect that they never employed Chinese because they were cheaper, but because they were more efficient than British seamen, and that there had never been any labour trouble in any of our docks on account of Chinese seamen being employed. I can go back a good many years, and I have met a great many of those who represent and are engaged in the shipping interest and I say this is the first time in my life I have ever heard it stated that Chinese are employed in British ships because they are more efficient than British seamen, and not merely because they are cheaper. I say emphatically in all my experience the great mass of Chinese seamen employed in British ships have been there because they have been cheaper, and I would add that the hon. Member must have had information time and again of cases where docks have been held up because an attempt has been made to remove Chinese seamen from ships in order to do shore work. The docks have been held up in fact until the Chinese have been removed, and this has occurred on may occasions and will happen again to-morrow if necessity should arise.
I repeat that in my opinion the Amendment prepared by the Government is fair and reasonable, and meets the case. As I take it no alien is to be employed in any capacity on board any ship at a rate of pay less than standard rate of pay for the time current. I quite anticipated when I read those words that an attempt would be made to cut them out, but my anticipations have not been realised. Here is the crux of the whole position. This has been the cause of the unrest, dissatisfaction and bitter hositility which has been shown in the past against the Chinese and indeed against Asiatics generally. But we have now entered upon a new era of life. We have brighter and better hopes for the future. We do not want to go back to the old state of affairs and I venture to think that even seamen themselves are now not hostile to foreigners being in the ship, so long as they get the same wages as British sea-men, and there is no undercutting. The Amendment as proposed by the Government goes a long way to prevent a return to the old condition of things so far as seafaring life is concerned, and I think the time of the House could be well devoted during the next hour or two in attempting to read what a judge or jury might possibly say as to the real meaning of the Clause. We have to satisfy yourselves here to-day what is the need and how it is to be met, and I am fully convinced that the Amendment as submitted by the Government goes a long way to meet that need. Therefore I hope the House will accept it in its present form.
I have had severs or eight Amendments handed in of words proposed to be inserted, and I think all the Amendments raised the point which has been referred to in the discussion.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, after the word "skipper," to insert the words "second hand."
The Clause will then read, "No alien shall act as master, chief officer, or chief engineer of a British merchant ship … or as skipper or second hand of a fishing boat," and so on. Probably Members of the House are aware that the second hand on a trawler holds exactly the same position as does the first officer on board a merchantman. He is second in command. He has to have a knowledge of navigation, he takes charge while the skipper is in his bunk, and he looks forward to a command of his own in the next year. He also, like the skipper, has a share in the trawler. I do not see why trawlers should be treated differently in this respect to steamers. The first or chief officer of a steamship already has to be British. Why should not the second hand be the same? These trawlers go round the Morocco Coast. They are getting larger every year, and now run up to 1,000 tons. Without any disrespect to the rest of the Mercantile Marine I would say that these men are the most valuable potential reserve for the Royal Navy. They are skilled seamen, being brought up to the work almost from childhood. They have been, and will, be invaluable in the future in two particular spheres of work for which they alone are fitted. The first is that of mine-sweeping. Their work is very similar to mine-sweep- ing, and their knowledge of the tides, sand banks, etc., is superior to that of any other merchant seamen. The second is the work of submarine hunting. We have to economise on our fighting forces in future. We have to economise in the Royal Navy, therefore the question of trained reserves for the Navy will be more important in the future than it is now. Every alien who is employed as second hand on a trawler is one trained skilful fisherman the fewer for employment in mine-sweeping in time of war. The President of the Board of Trade, if he opposes the Amendment, will probably say that numbers of these men did good service in the War. That is so. But the last War was a war against Germany. I believe it is a fact that the small neutral nations whose subjects probably acted in this capacity, such as the Danes and the Swedes, were at thoroughly cross purposes with Germany over the War. Can we be certain that in the future, if we should unfortunately find ourselves involved in war again, we should find these people on our side? Very strong views are held by the fishermen's organisations on this point, and I have letters from the associations which I could read pressing strongly that it should be compulsory that the second hand as well as the skipper should be a British subject. That is only in conformity with what is already in the Bill in regard to chief officers, and I hope the House will accept the Amendment.
This reopens a point over which I have spent very many hours study and cogitation. It is a very difficult point to decide what is the wisest and best course to be taken. In my original draft for this Clause I included second hands and then cut them out, really in order that I might have the assistance of the House in deciding the best thing to do. This particular point, from one point of view, seems unimportant, but from another point of view it is not so unimportant. Without doubt it is a great advantage to this country to have the men who are working round its coasts by day and night British and reliable. On the other hand, we have to consider the question of the development of the fisheries round our coasts and the actual ownership of the boats which are landing fish. At the present time there is a considerable quantity of fish landed from boats of which the capital is not British. That we hope to change enormously by the new scheme under which drifters and trawlers which were taken by the Admiralty during the War arc now being disposed of and placed in the hands of actual fishermen. It may be that at the present time and in present circumstances that this question of getting the help of foreign capital—for that is what it amounts to—in securing the food supplies of the sea for this country is not so important as it was. There is, therefore, a certain amount of doubt as to which is the wiser course to be taken. My own feeling is that in the long range the wiser course it to put in a provision that second hands shall also be British. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ‡"] That being the feeling of the House, I shall accept the Amendment.
Amendment to proposed Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made to proposed Amendment: Leave out the word "mainly" ["employed mainly in voyages "]. and insert instead thereof the word "habitually."—[Sir H. Nield.]
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "to or from" ["voyages to or from ports "], and to insert instead thereof the word "between."
Under the Amendment on the Paper any ship going to any port, as long as it comes back to a British port, is exempt from the conditions of this Bill.
I accept the Amendment.
Amendment to proposed Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "United Kingdom" ["ports outside the United Kingdom"], and to insert instead thereof the words "British Empire."
If this Amendment be not made, ships registered in the United Kingdom trading between ports of the British Empire can employ anybody they like. For instance, there are ships trading between Australia and New Zealand and between Capetown and Bombay. It is the wish of the House that British subjects should be employed on ships registered in the British Empire. That would include Indians and other natives who are very proud of this Empire.
If this Amendment were adopted it would have a very profound effect upon the whole position of the British Mercantile Marine. We have ships which enter British Empire ports in the ordinary tour of their voyages and which enter tropical poets where there is no opportunity of picking up British crews. The whole intention of my Amendment was to get some changes made in the proposals which were before the house that would safeguard these outlying lines. Many of these outlying lines are of the greatest importance to us. There is one line which, perhaps, touches British ports once in its round, and not always that, yet it does trade to the British Empire alone. May I point out that we have changed the word "mainly" to "habitually," so that it refers to vessels employed habitually in voyages between ports outside the United Kingdom? If in the ordinary course a ship called at a British Empire port, however outlying, then this provision would apply. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that if that were the case we would lose within a very few months a great deal of tonnage. It is these outlying lines for which it is so difficult to cater. The contingency which the hon. and gallant Member raised of ships trading between Australian and New Zealand ports, and therefore escaping all provisions of this sort, need not worry him, for in New Zealand and Australia the legislation in regard to shipping goes very much further than in this country. With regard to ships trading from British India in and about the tropical islands, there we are dealing with quite a different class of case. It is because of that class and because of certain instances which exist in America that in my opinion it is very desirable that this Clause should be adopted in the form in which it now stands, with the words "United Kingdom," and not with the words "British Empire."
Amendment to proposed Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in Sub-section (2), after the word "alien," to insert the words "when signing on in a port in the United Kingdom."
The statement made by the Government a few moments ago was that this Clause was meant to apply to men who signed on in ports in the United Kingdom, but as it stands it does not give effect to the desire of the Government. As it is most important that whatever we desire we should put clearly into an Act of Parliament, I beg to move this Amendment.
I hope the Amendment will not be accepted. I should like to make quite clear what is in our mind on this point. If you confine the Clause to the ports of the United Kingdom, you leave it open for shipowners to engage aliens abroad at wages much below what are paid in this country. For instance, you will have one class of British ships sailing on the coast of China manned by men from the United Kingdom getting full rates of wages, and you will have other ships which make a practice of discharging the white crews at ports in China and taking on Chinamen at low rates of wages. If Chinamen really are going to be employed instead of our own countrymen, the owners who want to seek an advantage out of that position ought to be compelled to pay the proper rates of wages which are paid in the United Kingdom. That is what has happened for years. How is it that we have at present from 16,000 to 18,000 Chinamen employed on British ships? It is due to the fact that they have been engaged at ports in China at low rates of wages. We want to prevent that. We say if a shipowner wants these aliens let him pay for them. I have listened with amazement to sonic of the statements which have been made in this Debate. It has been said Chinamen are the most efficient men who can be obtained. If they are so efficient the owners ought to have no objection to paying them good wages. I do not want the House to penalise shipowners who are employing Britishers and paying British wages. If we confine this Clause to ports in the United Kingdom you will be penalising shipowners who are employing Britishers and you will be giving a preference to the employment of Chinamen in ports in China. We do not want to exclude them because they are Chinamen. I do not think any such proposal would be entertained for a moment. But we have a right to say that no man of any nationality shall be used for the purpose of depressing conditions of employment in this country. I hope the right hon. Gen- tleman will stand by the Clause as drafted, and that any aliens employed on board British ships in any part of the world shall be paid the standard rate of wages. That does not interfere with the Lascar in any sense. He is not an alien. He is a British subject, and there is some reason why there should be a difference between the wages paid to the Lascar and to the white man, because as a rule you employ two Lascars to do the work of one white man, and for that reason you can quite understand Why there is a difference in the wages. But with the Chinaman it is quite the opposite. As a rule those who employ Chinamen employ the same number as they would whites. Chinamen engaged in this country generally obtain the same rate of wages as Britishers. But there are exceptions even to that. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear that any aliens engaged in any part of the world must be paid the standard rates of wages and that standard rate of wages is what prevails in the United Kingdom for the time being. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make that clear and will stand by it.
I have heard to-night a good deal about the obscurity of this Clause. I cannot believe that it is an obscure Clause. I am not sure that everyone has been trying to understand it. There is a very definite intention in it, and that is to affirm and confirm the present position with regard to the payment of wages at sea. The hon. Member (Mr. Wilson) has made it quite clear that he at all events understands it as I understand it, and as I have no doubt it would be understood by any Court which is asked to interpret it. The position is this: If a British Lascar is employed at a certain rate of pay which is the standard rate for Lascars, no alien Lascar will be employed at a less rate. That is to say the rating of Lascars, whether British or alien, will carry the same rate of pay with it, and if an alien is brought in to do the work of a British deck-hand, donkey-engineman, or whatever it may be, he will receive the same pay as the British seaman. It does not say in any part of it, nor can it be read into it, that an alien is to get more than the British seaman, which has been read into it this afternoon. It deals with British subjects, whether they be European or Asiatic, and it says that man for man, if the rate applies to a British European subject and a man is brought in to do his work who is not British, that man shall receive the same rate of pay as the British European. If a man who is not British is brought in to do the work of a British Asiatic he shall receive the rate of pay of a British Asiatic, and it leaves open for future negotiations in the ordinary way, between the men on the one hand and the employers on the other, as to the difference that there is to be between the European British subjects' rate of pay and the British Asiatic subjects' rate of pay. That, I think, is quite clear, and that is what the Clause says as I read it, as the draftsman reads it, and I think everyone reads it. "No alien "—it does not say Asiatic—"shall be employed in any capacity on board a British ship registered in the United Kingdom at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay for the time being current on British ships for his rating." If he be rated as a Lascar, an A.B. or a fireman or whatever he may be, that will be his pay for the time being. I cannot see the difficulty. I cannot even get hold of it. I have tried to see where the point was, but I could not find it. If there be anything the right hon. Baronet can point to in the drafting of the Clause which will render possible the dreadful effects he described, I shall most carefully and willingly consider it. But at present I do not see it. The Amendment cannot be accepted.
It is what the Government said was the intention of the Cause. That is why I put it down.
No. I am sure there must have been some misunderstanding. What was referred to was ships which were not trading to this country, and I heard my hon. Friend describe the position—higher rates at one place and lower at another. We have British ships which never leave the Coast of America, and if they take up crews at American ports they have to pay the American rate. In the same way we have ships trading in the Levant, which never leave it at all. The rate arranged, if it be a standard rate settled and agreed for British Lascars, will extend to foreigners. I think it is plain. I cannot see any possibility of misunderstanding in it. It is left perfectly open for both shipowners and the seamen's organisations to discuss and agree about anything in relation to the arrangement of the standard in relation one to the other.
I think there is really no difference of opinion as to what is meant and intended to be meant. The only difficulty is as to carrying out exactly what the right hon. Gentleman means. If he would put in "standard rate of pay for the time being current on British ships for ratings of his class and country of origin." I think that would dispose of the whole controversy without altering the meaning of the Clause.
The difficulty is in the last three words "for his rating." Why not put down in a Schedule what that rating is? While I sympathise with the hon. Member (Mr. Wilson) and will help him all I can there is a difficulty with the shipowner, who cannot get Englishmen to do the work. It would not be quite fair to ask British shipowners to pay full rates of wages for the inferior work that he gets from the natives. We do not know where we are. Every Chinaman who comes from Hong Kong calls himself an Englishman, and it is difficult to differentiate between them. There is an obscurity in the word "rating."
It is really a very difficult point to meet in any other way than we have tried here. The hon. Member's suggestion has any amount of objections open to it. It really goes much further than he wants it to. We have certain standard rates laid down, and those standard rates apply to certain classes of seamen. There are rates for coloured men. That is what we have today in the manning of British ships. The Imperial Maritime Board have worked out a plan to get a clear standard of wages to prevent underselling of services by the foreigner with a lower standard of life. Where conditions in the past have recognised the existence of a coloured element in the crew, an Asiatic element, a Yellow element, a non-British element, a non-European British element; where that has been recognised as a standard part of the manning of the ship and where for that special section there has been a special rate of pay, that, under the present provision, is being continued. Where in the manning in the past a non-European element has always received the same wages as the European part of the crew, that practice is being continued, if it was of pre-war origin. That is what we are aiming at getting carried on under this Bill. We desire that the present position should be regularized, that protection of their standard of living should be given to our men. When I say our men I do not mean merely the home-grown Britisher, but our fellow subjects in India, and that if there be a British Lascar standard rate and the British Lascar be employed upon a British ship he will not be undersold by some non-British Asiatic. In this Clause we are protecting two sets, the British-grown seafarer and the British-Asiatic seafarer. We protect the British-grown seafarer against the European and the Asiatic, and we protect the British-Asiatic seafarer against the competition of other Asiatics. If there be any point upon which I can improve the drafting of the Clause I shall be glad to hear of it.
One would think, from the way the right hon. Gentleman speaks, that the Chinese rate of wage in this country was going to be maintained at what it is now. It is per month. The Chinaman and the white Britisher are to have the same pay. What will happen to the Blue Funnel boats which take on Chinamen at Hong Kong at the rate prevailing there? When they come to Great Britain arc they to be paid at the British rates?
I am quite clear about the Lascars. There is a rate for them, and it is quite clear that the Board of Trade intend to maintain it. The Chinamen are the difficulty. There are different rates of pay in China as there are different rates of pay here. A British Chinese crew from Hong Kong will receive pay at the home rate when they come to Great Britain. The point is not at all clear, and we want to have it cleared up.
We have heard references frequently to the Maritime Board having drawn up a scale. I take it that that Board is constituted both of employers and of representatives of the seamen. They have made out various scales for various duties on board ship. There is a rate for donkeymen and a rate for the other grades. I think the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) is either using his verbal microscope to find something that is not there, or he has some other motive. We have been told that there is an agreement. It would have tended to lessen the Debate if we had had the terms of the agreement which has been arrived at between the shipowners and the representatives of the seamen. The object of the Clause has been clearly stated by the Minister in charge of the Bill. It is to maintain a standard rate of wages agreed upon, and that it shall not be menaced by competition from other nationalities. If we had had the agreement it would have prevented any confusion and would have shortened the Debate.
I understand that prior to this Amendment being moved the House generally accepted the definition of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. 'Havelock Wilson) and the right hon. Member in charge of the Bill, that the intention of the Clause was exclusively to protect British labour against what we call unfair competition. During the discussion of that point various Members questioned whether the Clause as drafted gave effect to that intention. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) pointed out that, whilst he was not challenging the intention or questioning the object of the Clause he did not believe that effect was given to the Government's intention in the Clause, and he moved the Amendment, as he says, to give effect to the intentions of the Government. The right hon. Baronet says he does not challenge the intentions of the Government on that point, but the hon. Member below him clearly has something else in mind, because from the words that he suggested it was pointed out that the definition would be unfair to the shipowner. It is no use to argue for words or definition if the object of the words is not to define more clearly what is intended but is really to destroy what is intended and what was clearly explained from the Government Bench. The words of the Clause, I understand, are accepted on both sides in the sense that they do protect British labour, and it is useless to attempt to insert fresh words and to say that the object of them is to protect British labour and at the same time to suggest that it is not for that alone but for the purpose of giving a preference in another direction.
The Amendment I have moved is to give effect to what the Government says was their intention. I wrote down the words used by the hon. Member for Reading (Colonel Wilson). He said, "signed on in this country." It was to apply to men signed on in this country." The hon. Member for Lime-house drew the attention of the House to the words used by the hon. Member for Reading, and pointed out that they were not in the Bill. I said that the intention of the Government should be clearly expressed in the Bill, and with that object I moved the Amendment to insert the words. The hon. Member for South Shields made his object very clear. His object, and I am not questioning it, is to get the same rates for foreigners as for British seamen. No doubt he desires to obtain as much employment as possible for British seamen. I do not question whether that is right or wrong. That is not the object that we were told that the Government had in view. One hon. Member said that a steamer trading in the Red Sea might be prevented from carrying on trade in the Red Sea because no British stokers could be employed in the stokehole in the Red Sea, it was necessary to employ Arabs, and they could not afford to pay to Arabs, who were not as efficient as British stokers, the same rate of pay as British stokers. Then I understood that it would only apply to people signing on in British ports and not to steamers trading in that way. It struck me that there might be a very serious blow struck at British shipping if you made it impossible for British ships, trading under the conditions described, to carry on their business. Therefore, I want to meet that point, and that is the reason why I moved to put in the words. The effect of this Amendment would be that no alien shall be employed at a rate of pay less than the standard rate of pay for the time being current on British ships for his rating. I understand that a standard rate of pay fixed by the Imperial Maritime Board has been fixed after consultation with members of the trade unions and the shipowners. What we are doing now is to give by Act of Parliament authority to a Government Department to compel people to pay certain rates, provided that the trade unions and certain representatives of the shipowners agree that those rates are to be paid. At the present time the shipowners and the trade unions may agree that a certain rate shall be paid, but there is no obligation upon any other shipowner to carry that out if he does not choose to do so. Now, by Act of Parliament, and by a side wind, you are practically saying that whenever a certain number of shipowners and trade unionists come to an agreement, then, by Act of Parliament, everybody will be compelled to pay the rate that these people have agreed upon, whether they like it or not. That is a very far-reaching thing. It may be right in the United Kingdom, though I do not, think it is, but it is not right to say that it shall apply to vessels trading say from a port in South Africa to a port in the Mediterranean. The right hon. Gentleman said that a vessel trading from one port to another is hound by the Regulations of the port from which it starts. He instanced the case of Lascars.
I said that if a standard rate existed. There is no Lascar special rate, but the British Lascar could not be undersold by a non-British Lascar.
Under the Clause as it stands it is perfectly easy for a rate to be laid down which does apply to business of that sort in foreign ports, and the owner of a British ship though he had not agreed to this rate would be compelled to employ these particular people at a rate drawn up by somebody else. I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member for South Shields. He was very lucid, though I think he goes too far. I think the result will be that you will damage British trade and that these vessels will hoist a foreign flag. I hope that the point will be considered in another place, because however necessary it may be to give the trade union rate of wages to workmen we do not want to do anything which will put a spoke in British business. It is all very well for the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Prime Minister to come here and say that there is no need for pessimism. That may be true if we carry on the old way, but if we are going to shackle trade as this Amendment may do it will be impossible to carry on so as to restore the country to the prosperity which it enjoyed before the War.
As several speeches have been made on this question of driving British trade away from the British flag, may I point out that it is a hollow cry? I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping how many British ships built by the British Government had been sold to foreigners this year. This was before the Recess. His answer was that 112 standard ships built to the order of the British Government had been sold to foreigners. As I hope that we shall hear no more of these vague statements against the very reasonable Amendment supported by the hon. Member for South Shields to the effect that it is going to drive British trade into foreign lands when you have already sold 112 British ships to foreigners.
I think that the view expressed by my right hon. Friend (Sir F. Banbury) the Member for the City of London, as to the legal meaning of Sub-clause (2) is correct. As it stands the word "rating" would be interpreted in any Court by which before a case might come as referring strictly and solely to the class of work the man is doing on the ship—stoker, donkeyman, A.B., or what ever it may be. That being so it follows necessarily, by the legal interpretation of the Clause, that it would become an offence for a British ship running in Eastern waters to carry a crew of Chinese Lascars who were aliens not shipped at Hong Kong, and it may be that it is impossible to run ships in those waters in the face of the competition which they have to meet except by crews of that kind. It is a very difficult point. I appreciate the labour point of view but I am sure it is not the intention of the Labour party to drive any British shipping 'out of trade. As the Clause stands I am satisfied that that will be the result. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will either accept an Amendment now to this Clause or give us an undertaking that the words shall be inserted in another place to deal with the matter.
Amendment to proposed Amendment negatived.
I beg to move, in Subsection (2) of the proposed Amendment, after the words "United Kingdom" to insert the words "to which Sub-section (1) of this section applies."
The effect of my proposed Amendment is to confine Sub-section (2) within the scope of Sub-section (1). It need not interfere with trade where foreign labour cannot really be said to be in competition with British labour at all. It must be remembered that you may have, on account of exigencies of climate which you cannot get anywhere else, cases in which it will take three men to do the work of one. Further there is no comparison as regards the cost of living between this country and these other lands. These very delicate topics are the subject of special provisions which I need not repeat, in the Peace Treaty which provides that a conference of Powers shall be held to lay down rules governing this very topic. It would be unfortunate if the House of Commons were allowed by the Government to strike in at this stage and prejudice the decisions at which the Peace Conference may arrive. It is obvious from what has been said that it is the desire of neither the Government nor of the House nor, I am quite sure, of the Member for South Shields to double or treble the cost of an English ship in case there is no possibility of any competition between British and alien labour.
Ships such as have been referred to in the previous speech plying in remote corners of the world, which never come home, which are in fierce competition with foreign ships in remote parts of the earth. To do that would be to put British shipping out of the running altogether as compared with the shipping of other nations, and indeed would put the finishing touch on British trade in the tropics. The President of the Board of Trade I know does not intend to do anything of the kind, but he is too vague in the words which he used. I quite agree with the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool (Mr. L. Scott) as to the legal effect of the Clause as it stands. After all, when the matter comes into Court no counsel will be listened to who refers to the OFFICIAL REPORT, and says "The President of the Board of Trade said so and so." The judge will say, "What the President of the Board of Trade said has nothing to do with the matter. I have got to look at what the Clause says." If there is a danger—and from personal knowledge I know there that a real danger does exist—in these words, it should be excluded by insertion of explicit words by the Government, and I hope that if they cannot adjust their minds to the situation here they may consent to the insertion of some words safeguarding the position in another place. For the effect of these words would be to produce not an increase but a diminution in the employment of British citizens.
Because you would put shipping in these tropical countries out of competition by making it impossible for them to continue. They will not be able to continue if these conditions are imposed and they will have to go under another flag. I do not agree with my hon. and gallant Friend (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy). I speak with some knowledge of the matter, and so serious is the view taken of this that I have actually heard it said that this will make it impossible for them to carry on. We want to keep our shipping in these seas, but we cannot do so at a loss year after year, and we shall have to put them, say, under the Greek flag. Then we shall lose the advantage of these ships in a time of crisis. The net result would be a diminution of employment for our people, and a loss to the Empire. I hope that my right hon. Friend will adopt this Amendment. My hon. and gallant Friend will remember that he said he thought that it was implied in the Amendment as it stood. The only effect of this Amendment is to secure that this second Sub-clause shall be kept within the scope of the first. That meets the other point with regard to ships which come to this country.
I beg to second the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
I may mention an actual case in which foreign competition has had a very serious effect on British trade. One of our greatest competitors in the East was a Japanese Line trading round the Chinese coast—Hong Kong, Singapore, and so on. They do not employ crews at the rate of pay that we should pay to men who are shipped, say, at Cardiff. They would have a great advantage therefore in Eastern waters, and might very well wipe out our ships if they had to pay these higher wages.
The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment may be a very good lawyer, but I venture to subimit that he does not know a great deal about the shipping trade, either of this country or of the Coast of China. First of all, the shipowners themselves agree to this proposal of the President of the Board of Trade, and agree to it in its entirety. There was another proposal before the House to exclude aliens entirely from British ships. Everyone who has any knowledge of the shipping trade knows perfectly well that that would be absolutely impossible in a world like this. Now we are told some alarming stories about the destruction of British trade abroad. I am as much interested in the improvement of the shipping industry as the hon. and learned Member. I do not want to see British shipping decay. I want to see it prosper, because the more ships we have the more opportunity there will be for employment for the seamen of our own country. Nor do I want to see coming to this country a class of shipowner who will make it a practice to engage Chinamen at a low rate of wages in Chinese ports.
My Amendment does not deal in any way with ships that trade with this country, but entirely with ships which operate outside the United Kingdom.
That is just the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman does not understand. He may understand law, but he has not a clear knowledge of shipping. A good many vessels engage crews of Chinese in China. They come to European ports and to the United Kingdom. They do not discharge the Chinamen here, but keep them on board until they return to a port in China, when they discharge the crew and take on another. Shipowners who indulge in that practice of getting cheap Chinese labour are operating their ships in all parts of the world. It is not merely a question of confining a ship to the coast of China. These owners could and would send similar ships to all parts of the world, having on board a crew engaged in China at a low rate of wages, and they would compete with our own countrymen. That is what they do. Where is the hardship to be imposed on any shipowner by this Clause? The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think that if the House passes the Clause it is going to destroy entirely the shipping trade on the China coast. Those of us who know anything about shipping know that is not true. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will reject the Amendment.
I do not think that this Amendment really meets what we are all trying to meet. I do not think there is any real difference between the objects we have before us. Those objects are quite clear. We want to protect our own British-born fellow subjects, at the same time as we protect our Asiatic fellow subjects. The Amendment will limit the Bill in its scope to one part of the problem with which we arc trying to deal. I would ask my hon. Friend not to press this Amendment, but if he has one which will clarify the last words of the Clause, I think I should be able to meet him.
Amendment to proposed Amendment negatived.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the suggestion which he has made. It amounts to this, that if we can find words, which he cannot find and cannot think of, to make clear what he actually means, he will be glad to accept them. All our efforts so far have been quite fruitless, and I think the real root of the matter is that neither the House nor the President knows exactly what he means. I am perfectly certain that the Courts of Law will not know what he means, and will not care what he means. The only thing to which they will pay attention will be the Clause. In order to safeguard the position—a very limited safeguard—of certain specific races and classes, I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2) of the proposed Amendment, to insert the words
Provided that where the Board of Trade are satisfied that aliens of any particular race other than former enemy aliens are habitually employed afloat in any capacity or in any climate for which they are specially fitted, nothing in this Section shall prejudice the right of aliens of such races to be employed on British ships at rates of pay which are not below those for the time being current generally for their services.
That safeguards the position of the Goanese stewards who are employed on passenger ships trading from Bombay. They are in a sense hereditary stewards, generation after generation. They do their work excellently, and they are generally considered to be British-Indians, but, as a matter of fact, they come from a small Portuguese territory called Goa, which is entirely surrounded by British India, and they are aliens. These men are probably not nearly as efficient as British stewards, I admit, but during the War they have done their work thoroughly well, and it would be most unfair to say to them, "You have served us faithfully during the War, yow have never shown the white feather, but as a reward the House of Commons says you must go. You can go and give your
services to some other nation." The Amendment safeguards their position and the position of all races which are specially adapted by their character, and are habitually employed, for the particular work they do—for instance, the stoking of a ship in the Red Sea—and are particularly suited to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade. I refer not only to the Goanese stewards, but to Arab stokers. Competition with British labour is not in any sense involved. We safeguard the position of these people so that they are placed on a level not lower than their fellows enjoy elsewhere, and we secure also the position of those trades in which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Wilson) is greatly concerned.
Through the wording of this Amendment is different from that of a previous Amendment, there is absolutely no difference in principle. The Mover does not dissent from that. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that one of the reasons wiry we ought to accept this Amendment is that the present Clause does an injustice to certain men who served us faithfully during the War. He says, in substance, that unless we pass this Amendment we must go to these people and say, "Although you served us faithfully and well, and though we appreciate your services, and we are very glad for all you have done, yet we have no further use for you." He implies that that is a message that must be given to these faithful people. My answer is that we will not tell them anything of the kind. We will say to them, "Yes, you have served us faithfully and well; we appreciate all you did, and now as a reward for your services you will net be any more sweated, but will be paid the same rate as other people." I think that is the answer to the story which my hon. and learned Friend put forward.I only rose to say that I hope that the House, which has already negatived a proposal to the same effect, will give a like verdict on this proposal.
Sir J. D. REES:
I hope that somehow the case which has been put forward will be met. I do not want the Bill whittled away, but it is absurd to suggest that these men in any way compete with British labour. On the contrary, they are the means of creating more labour for British sub- jects. The P. and O. and the British India Steam Navigation Company and other companies could not run those lines unless they had Lascars. The same thing applies to the Goanese stewards. These ships are navigated partly in tropical climates, and the higher class of labour is purely white. It is true, of course, that the Goanese are aliens, but Goa is only a very small remnant of the once great Portuguese Empire. It is surrounded on every side by British territory, and effectively those men are to all intents and purposes British-Indian subjects. They are employed in British-Indian enterprises, because there is no enterprise in Portuguese India. I should think their territory is about half the size' of the county of Middlesex. It is really straining the point and not taking into account the actual material conditions when you treat men like these as aliens. Again, how are you going to get white labour to go down in the stokehole in the Red Sea? Everybody knows you cannot. I have the greatest respect for my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Wilson), and I remember more than a dozen years ago when he was bringing up every day cases of terrible cruelty to Lascars in the Red Sea. I asked him at that time had those people ever complained and that they were apt to know whether or not they were being boiled alive down below. Let us at least behave fairly and squarely to all the parties concerned in this matter. We are all anxious to protect British labour, but do not let us pretend that there is competition with British labour when there is not, and when alien labour, by performing functions which British labour cannot, creates the opportunity for the employment of British subjects. That is the very simple issue which is involved in my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment, and I really hope that the House will fairly and squarely deal with it on the actual merits of the case without being led away by any prejudice or sentiment.
I think it is quite clear to all in the House that what we desire to secure is that where we have, as in the ease of Lascars, some British and some alien, that standard rate of pay which is fixed shall extend to everyone in the same class. I am not sure that out of this Amendment we cannot fashion words which will make that point quite clear, and I would suggest this for consideration. "Provided that where the Board of Trade are satisfied that aliens of any particular race other than former enemy aliens, are habitually employed in any capacity or in any climate for which they are especially fitted, nothing in this Section shall prejudice the right of aliens of such race to be employed in British ships at rates of pay which are not below those for the time being fixed as the standard rate for British subjects of that race." That I think fairly meets the point and does not give away any of the principles of the Amendment.
I think that that suggested alteration goes only a very small way, though it does meet some of the considerations which I am advancing, and I am unwilling to put the House to the trouble of a Division. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would allow me, or will himself move, I do not think it would be wise to persist further in what I regard as an extremely legitimate demand. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) made what was, of course, an extremely clever debating point, but one which was not justified. He meant to imply that the Goanese stewards employed on great British lines are sweated. Nothing could be more contrary to the truth. It is not so. If the word "rating" was used it would mean that these stewards would have to be paid at the same rate as British stewards. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes‡"] We see now the full extent to which this attack on the Goanese stewards goes. We would be differentiating him from the Lascar, and the remuneration for his services would be so great that he would probably not be employed at all. These men would be told, according to some hon. Members, "You are good fellows, and we want to give you very much higher rates of pay," but the result would be that it would be impossible to employ them. Under all the circumstances my hon. Friends associated with me would be disposed to agree to the suggested alteration.
I shall have to put the House to a Division if the right hon Gentleman accepts the Amendment, because it practically destroys the whole value of the Sub-section. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no ‡"] I say it will, and I understand what the effect will be. What we want to do is to safeguard the position of British seamen, so that crews will not be engaged abroad who are going to compete in all parts of the world with British labour. I have already explained that a British ship signs on a Chinese crew, but they are not confined to the China trade. They may go to India or to the Mediterranean or to ports in the United States and they compete with other British ships which are paying the standard rate of wages. By this Amendment you are opening the door to exceptions to this Clause. I understand the effect of it, at least looking at it from our side. We are not pleading that Goanese and others should be excluded from British ships. All we say is, if you are going to employ them pay the proper standard rate of wages, and surely there is no hardship in that. We appreciate what the Goanese have done during the War, and the best reward we can give them is to continue to employ them and to pay them a proper rate of wages. My hon. Friend (Sir J. D. Bees) referred to the Lascars. We are not seeking to exclude the Lascars. We are not interfering with the Lascars. We are dealing with the alien and we are helping the Lascar by dealing with the alien. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to give way on this point.
I was under the impression from what was said earlier, that the Goanese being in India were to be lifted up to the level of the Lascars, but now we see that the Goanese stewards are going to be brought up to the level of British stewards, and just imagine what that means to the British India Company and other companies. The truth has come out at last. I was under the impression that what the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. J. H. Wilson) wanted was that when ships are in China they should get the standard rate in China, but now we see that when men are taken on in China if they come to Great Britain they are to get the same wages as Chinamen shipped on here or British men.
That is what we British shipowners have not agreed to, and I would ask the President of the Board of Trade to say whether I am right or wrong. I think it is well worth the time of the House to have lad this Debate so as to bring out the facts.
I should like to appeal to the hon. Member for South Shields not to go to a Division on this point, because I would ask him to consider the burden that is placed on the British shipowners. It has been been within my knowledge and I have seen the American flag run off the Pacific by the Japanese and the British, but the British ships had to employ the native labour that was available. If a British ship like a Canadian-Pacific ship is taking two or three hundred passengers, they cannot get fifty or sixty Englishmen who know the work of the stewards to do it, and they have to avail themselves of what is at hand, and they get very good Chinese stewards; and if you are going to call upon them to pay the same for them as for a high-class English steward, the Japanese will eventually knock us out of the trade, because the Japanese are a thoroughly efficient people and they are now running big steamers from Japan to Australia, to China, and to England, while a very large number of passengers are daily using the Japanese steamers as against ours, because they are well navigated and provided. I think it would be very much against the interests of the British seamen if we were to do anything by a chance vote in the House of Commons to put greater burdens on our shipowners than they can well bear in view of the competition that they have to face.
I am grateful to the hon. Member who has just spoken for his warning in reference to the Japanese trade. It is a most important fact that the Japanese will be running their ships vastly cheaper than ours, to China and on to this country too, on account of paying the crews a natural wage, such as we should pay the Chinese if we use them.
An hon. Member said we were getting the truth now, and I think one or two remarks by the Mover of this Amendment have escaped the attention of the House. The Mover of the Amendment based the whole of his case on the Goanese as a very great factor in shipping, and another hon. Member gets up and tells us that the whole of that country is about half the size of Middlesex. Another point was missed by the Mover of the Amendment, who not only dealt with Goanese stewards but got down to the stokehole and, after an interruption, said that these were Arabs. It is the intention apparently to have cheap labour against British labour; that is the intention from top to bottom. If hon. Gentlemen and right hon. Gentlemen are honest, let them give to British labour a fair chance after the sacrifices they have made, without this camouflage and talking about the injury to a trade that can stand the cost. The hon. Member for Dumbarton seems to think the President of the Board of Trade is running away from a bargain, but as I understand it, this agreement is a variable agreement, according to the nationality. We are pleading that so far as the British seaman is concerned, his position shall not be worsened by alien labour, and as I have followed the Debate I am convinced that whether it is done intentionally or not it is clear that the object of the Amendment is to get cheap labour. If that is to be the attitude of the shipowners in this House, then I say that so far as industrial peace is concerned, good-bye to it. The seamen and firemen have by their heroism and by their sacrifices proved themselves to be valiant and noble servants of this country, and now, when the danger is past and gone, are we to be told that they are to slip back to the old days and to become the worst paid labour throughout the length and breadth of British industry? If that is so, the sooner we know it the better, and we shall know where we are.
I disagree entirely with the last speaker. Nobody can throw a stone at me by saying I am disposed to weaken the British seaman. I have had everything thrown at me from this corner of the House, and possibly from others, but I am as strong in my desire to keep this Bill protective as anybody can be. Are we not riding at cross purposes? I would not propose to support a measure which would allow a single alien to be employed where the Britisher can do the work, and it is only in the spheres where no British-horn person can possibly do the work on account of climatic conditions that I venture to think that then we ought to establish the claims of British native labour, so to speak, of Asiatic labour which is British in its sphere of origin, and we ought to say that they shall not be displaced by permitting on ships registered in Great Britain alien Asiatic labour, the principle being that where a Britisher can do the work he should do it and nobody should be permitted to take a standard wage lower than the proper rate for a Britisher; but it is purely a question of work which cannot be done by Europeans. I am quite agreed that whenever a Britisher can do the work he should by all means do it, and the shipowners should be compelled to pay the fullest rate to an alien who seeks to do the work that a Britisher ought to be doing.
I feel we are getting a little bit away from the suggested Amendment. We have got here a proposal to do precisely what my hon. Friend who has just sat down suggests, that where a rate is fixed for British Asiatic labour no other Asiatic labour will be allowed to be employed except at that rate, that where a British Asiatic has a standard rate, and that is an agreed rate to pay to a British Asiatic, then it is proposed that it should be the law that no other Asiatic shall be paid a lower rate. That is what we now propose, anti the wording is as follows:
Provided that where the Board of Trade are satisfied that aliens of any particular race other than former enemy aliens are habitually employed in any capacity or in any climate for which they are specially fitted, nothing in this Section shall prejudice the right of aliens of such races to be employed on British ships at rates of pay which are not below those for the time being fixed as standard rates for British subjects of that race.
I think that seems to be fair and to protect the interests of our Asiatic natives, and to come between the two points of view winch have been put.
In the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment in favour of the words read out by the President.
Amendment to proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2) of the proposed Amendment, as amended, after the word "rating," to add the words
Provided that where the Board of Trade are satisfied that aliens of any particular lace other than former enemy aliens are habitually employed in any capacity or in any climate for which they are specially fitted, nothing in this Section shall prejudice the right of aliens of such races to be employed on British ships at rates of pay which are not below those for the time being fixed as standard rates for British subjects of that race.
I oppose this Amendment, and I beg to say that if it is accepted the whole of the time of the House will have been absolutely wasted. The proposal is that the Board of Trade shall under certain conditions do certain things, but where is the Board of Trade at ports in China? Is a ship to be detained at a Chinese port until such time as they can communicate with the Board of Trade in Great Britain to ask as to whether they can do certain things or not? As I have said, the effect of this will be to encourage the employment of large numbers of Chinamen on board British ships that are not going to trade on the coast of China only, but ships that will engage crews at Chinese ports and then trade to all parts of the world in competition with our own ships. What advantage is the Clause of the right hon. Gentleman? I appeal to the House of Commons to have sympathy for the British seamen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear‡] Yes, but you have a very strange way of showing it, some of you, and we have had some remarkable sympathy expressed by Gentlemen interested in the shipping industry, who are very keen to tell us that we must not destroy that industry. I want to tell them that I am just as keen on preserving it as they are, bat I have a different way of showing my appreciation of the work that has been done by British seamen in this, War, and it is not by excluding the British seaman from employment that we are going to pay our gratitude to bins for what he has done. I hope the House will join with me in rejecting this Amendment, because it absolutely destroys the whole of what has been done in favour of the men, and I shall ask hon. Members to go into the Lobby against the proposal.
If the hon. Member who has just sat down referred to me, as he looked at me in rather a reproving way, I would like to assure him I am not interested to the extent of five shillings in British shipping. But I would like to point out the difficulties the Government would be in. How are you going to enforce this law against British shipping if Chinese are employed in Canadian ships? I think we are only snaking for trouble, and that the compromise proposed by the President of the Board of Trade meets a very difficult and delicate point in a fair way. I yield to no one, not even to the lion. Gentleman himself, in my high esteem and regard for the British seaman; in fact, I have the honour to be hon. treasurer of the oldest Maritime Association in this country, and I have lived with sailors all my life. I think the course proposed by the President of the Board of Trade makes a very useful compromise.
I rise to support the attitude of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Wilson). I have been listening to the Debate all this afternoon, and I think the discussion on the Bill has undergone a very interesting transformation. In the earlier stages of the Debate on this Bill I observed that a number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen were rabid anti-alienists. Nothing good could be said of aliens. But they are absolutely silent when the protection of the British seaman's wages is at stake, and when it is a question of retaining the large swollen dividends of shipowners in this country. When it comes to a question of that sort they forget about the terrible crimes of the aliens. You would think that these. Chinamen were more efficient than British seamen. Were it not for the
fact that the cloven hoof has now been revealed, I would have sat silent. I support the hon. Member for South Shields, who knows more about the sailors than anyone else. The particular Clause of the President of the Board of Trade is not definitive enough—to use a famous word in these times. I think it is a pity, in view of the trouble the right hon. Gentleman has had over that word, he has not found something that is understood by the common people.
|Division No. 120.]||AYES||[7.35 p.m.|
|Adair, Rear-Admiral||Du Pre, Colonel W. B.||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Edgar, Clifford||Keilaway, Frederick George|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Edge, Captain William||Kerr-Smiley, Major P.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James||Edwards, Major J. (Aberavon)||Kiley, James Daniel|
|Tynte Archdale, Edward M.||Edwards, J. H. (Glam., Neath)||King, Commander Douglas|
|Bagley, Captain E. A.||Elliot, Captain W. E. (Lanark)||Law, A. J, (Rochdale)|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Eyres-Monsell, Commander||Law, Rt. Hen. A. Sonar (Glasgow)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Falcon, Captain M.||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ. Wales)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, London)||Fella, Major Sir Bertram Godfrey||Lewis, T. A. (Pontypridd, Glam.)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Farquharson, Major A. C.||Lloyd, George Butler|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir F. G.||Fell, Sir Arthur||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Barrand, A. R.||Forrest, W.||Lonsdale, James R.|
|Barrie, Charles Coupar (Banff)||Foxcroft, Captain C.||Lorden, John William|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Lynn, R. J.|
|Bell, Lt.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Gange, E. S.||M'Donald, Dr. B. F. P. (Wallasey)|
|Bennett, T. J.||Ganzoni, Captain F. C.||M'Laren, R. (Lanark, N.)|
|Bentinck, Lt. Col. Lord H. Cavendish||Gardiner, J. (Perth)||Macleod, John Mackintosh|
|Birchall, Major J. D.||Geddes, Rt. Hon. Sir A. C. (Basingstoke)||Macmaster, Donald|
|Bird, Alfred||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||McMicking, Major Gilbert|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Gilbert, James Daniel||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James lan|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur Griffith-||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Bowles, Colonel H. F.||Gray, Major E.||Maitland, Sir A. D. Steel-|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Greene, Lt.-Col. W. (Hackney, N.)||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Gregory, Holman||Mildmay, Col. Rt. Hon. Francis B.|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Greig, Colonel James William||Mitchell, William Lane-|
|Bruton, Sir J.||Gretton, Colonel John||Moles, Thomas|
|Burden, Colonel Rowland||Griggs, Sir Peter||Moore, Maj.-Gen. Sir Newton J.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R. (Torquay)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Guinness, Lt.-Col. Hon. W. E.(B. St. E.)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.|
|Campbell, J. G. D.||Hanna, G. B.||Murray, William (Dumfries)|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Harmsworth, Cecil R. (Luton, Beds.)||Neal, Arthur|
|Carr, W. T.||Harris, Sir H. P. (Paddington, S.)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. (Exeter)|
|Cayzer, Major H. R.||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Oxford Univ.)||Herbert, Dennis,: (Hertford)||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel F.||O'Neill, Capt. Hon. Robert W. H.|
|Chadwick, R. Burton||Hills, Major J. W. (Durham)||Palmer, Brig.-General G. (Westbury)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Hinds, John||Parker, James|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Hood, Joseph||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Peel, Col. Hon. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cohen, Major J. B. B.||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Perring, William George|
|Colfax, Major W. P.||Hopkinson, Austin (Mossley)||Philipps, Sir O. C. (Chester)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General R. B.||Horne, Sir Robert (Hillhead)||Pollack, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Howard, Major S. G.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Cope, Major W. (Glamorgan)||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Purchase, H. G.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish University)||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Raeburn, Sir William|
|Craig, Captain Charles C.(Antrim)||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Craig, Col. Sir James (Down, Mid.)||lnskip, T. W. H.||Raw, Lieut.-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jackson, Lieut.-Col. Hon. F. S. (York)||Rees, Captain J. Tudor (Barnstaple)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir John H.||Jodrell, N, P.||Reid, D. D.|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Jones, Sir Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richardson, Sir Albion (Peekham)|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Crewe)||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Richardson, Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Denison-Pender, John C.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Dixon, Captain H.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Robinson, T. (Stretford, Lancs)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen)||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Roundell, Lt.-Colonel R. F.||Sutherland, Sir William||Wilson, Colonel Leslie (Reading)|
|Samuel, A. M. (Farnham, Surrey)||Thomas-Stanford. Charles||Wilson, Col. (Richmond, Yorks.)|
|Sanders, Colonel Robert Arthur||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Wilson-Fax, Henry|
|Scott, A. M. (Glas., Bridgeton)||Thorpe, J. H.||Winterton, Major Earl|
|Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Tickler, Thomas George||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone)||Townley, Maximilian G.||Wood, Major Hon. E. (Ripon)|
|Seager, Sir William||Tryon, Major George Clement||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Shaw, Hon. A. (Kilmarnock)||Vickers, D.||Woolcock, W. J. U.|
|Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Wallace, J.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T., W.)||Wardle, George J.||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Sprot, Col. Sir Alexander||Warren, Sir Alfred H.||Young, Lt.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (Ashton)||Wheler, Colonel Granville C. H.||Young, Sir F. W. (Swindon)|
|Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Preston)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Young, William (Perth and Kinross)|
|Steel, Major S. Strang||Whitla, Sir William||Younger, Sir George|
|Stephenson, Colonel H. K.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|Stewart, Gershom||Williams, Lt-Com. C. (Tavistock)|
|Strauss, Edward Anthony||Williamson, Rt. Hen. Sir Archibald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.-Capt.|
|Sturrock, J. Leng-||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.||F. Guest and Lord E. Talbot,|
|Adamson, Rt. Han. William||Hellas, E.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Been, Captain W. (Leith)||Hartshorn, V.||Short, A. (Wednesbury)|
|Billing, Noel Pemberton||Hayward, Major Evan||Smith, Capt. A. (Nelson and Caine)|
|Bottomley, Horatie||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wisbech)||Sugden, Lieut. W. H.|
|Bramsden, Sir T.||Hirst, G. H.||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Burn, T. H. (Belfast)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Carter, W. (Mansfield)||Hogge, J. M.||Tootill, Robert|
|Clynes, Right Hon. John R.||Jephcott, A. R.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Kenyon, Barnet||White, Charles F. (Derby, W.)|
|Edwards, A. Clement (East Ham, S.)||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Wlgnall, James|
|Edwards, C. (Bedwellty)||Lunn, William||Wilson, J. H. (South Shields)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Murchison, C. K.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Murray, Dr. D. (Western Isles)||Wood, Major Mackenzie (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh)||Newbould, A. E.||Young, Robert (Newton, Lanes.)|
|Green J. F. (Leicester)||O'Connor, T. P.|
|Griffiths, T. (Pontypool)||O'Grady, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Palmer, Major G. M. (Jarrow)||Thomas and Mr. Seddon.|
|Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Rowlands, James|
The hon. and gallant Gentleman can select one of the three Amendments that he has on the Paper.
I beg to move, at the end, to insert the words
After the commencement of this Act a certificate of competency under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, shall not be granted to an alien as master, officer, or engineer of a British merchant ship registered in the United Kingdom.
In any case, I intended asking permission of the House not to move the first and second proposed Amendments I have put down, the first being really met by the Amendment which has just been passed, and the second being met by the state of the Bill. With your permission, however, I beg to move my third Amendment. This Amendment is simply to limit, after the
passing of this Act, the granting of a certificate of a master, mate, or engineer to British subjects. It will not interfere with the certificates already held by foreigners but will prevent those certificates being issued to foreigners in future. After the Debate that we have had I need not go much further into the matter, but I can best sum the situation up by quoting a few lines from a letter I have had from the Secretary of the Liverpool Shipowners' Association, in which he says:
What we require, and what we look forward to, is the formation of a national scheme of training British boys in the merchant service, the same as is done in the British Navy. There are thousands of sturdy youngsters who want to go to sea, and for whom no, or few, facilities are provided. If such a scheme comes into operation we shall have an ample supply of British seamen.
At present any decent man in the fo'c'sle looks forward to getting his certificate. These are the sort of people we should encourage to go to sea, so that every decent lad before the mast, assuming he behaves himself and proves his competency. should be able to look forward to commanding the ship. We want to keep the British Merchant service, so far as the officers are concerned British, if for no other reason than as an ample
reserve for the Royal Navy. I hope that this Amendment, which has that object in view, will be accepted by the President of the Board of Trade, and we can then go far, at any rate, to have our Merchant Service officers gradually becoming fully British without in any way penalising the present holders of an officer's ticket. Many of these holders we know, have served very well in this War in our service.
I beg to second the Amendment. I notice that none of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's associates have got up to second it. I can only assume that the proposed Amendment does not appeal to what is known as the international spirit in politics. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment said he was going to give us a reason for moving it. I thought he was going to tell us, seeing he sits for Hull, that there was nothing for him to do but to put down such an Amendment. That is not at all the reason he gives us. He also told us that he considered in the best interests of the British Navy, that the British Mercantile Marine should have a fair chance. That is the reason, although it is not compatible with many of the speeches which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made in this House. That is the reason why I second the Amendment. It is absolutetly essential that we, as an island race, should, above all things, do everything in our power to encourage the youngsters in our nation to take to the sea as a profession. Anything we can do to encourage the foreigner, not in competition, but to establish him as a master in our ships is detrimental to the wellbeing of this nation.
We have this afternoon so far added to the Clause a series of provisions which makes it impossible to employ any alien as master, chief officer, or chief engineer on a British ship trading from the United Kingdom. What we are now considering is a state of affairs in which there may only be the possibility of finding any aliens in any of the officers in ships trading in different parts of the world. That we have already considered, and we have seen many arguments advanced. As a matter of fact the number of aliens employed at the present time, whilst the greatest possible is very small in spite of ships which are employed in the outlying services. I therefore suggest for the consideration of the House that the substance of this Amendment has already really been met by the various decisions of the House, and I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman not to endeavour to add this further provision.
The House, of course, cannot fail to note the lack of consistency which has just been exhibited. I am not going to oppose the decision of the Government in regard to this, but I should like to know whether this is part of an alien hunt or not? If it is, do let us be frank, and do not let lion. Members sometimes call out against other Members, as does the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Hull, while the Amendment he has moved would in part have that effect. Another thing the hon. and gallant Member for Hull did not move his earlier Amendments because he said the object had already been met in the Amendment passed by the House, whilst he himself went into the Lobby against it. That is an extraordinary position.
It is worth while pointing out, for the benefit of the public, the condition of things under which we do our work in this House, so that they may realise it. I think it is very desirable to have this frank admission, and that the public should see how hollow are the pretences which guide us into one Lobby or the other as the case may be. [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh, oh‡"] Yes, at the same time, I claim absolute consistency for my own conduct in this matter, and for those who sit around me. I will only add this: that I hope the Government's answer is conclusive, and that the Amendments which already have been made in this Bill sufficiently guarantee the position of Britishers in relation to these matters.