Major SANDEMAN ALLEN:25.
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will consider setting up a committee, formed of representatives of this House, representatives of the shipowners, and representatives of the trade unions involved, to investigate and report upon the grievances existing as a result of the employment of coloured seamen in British vessels?
The grievances, to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers, have not been brought to my notice, but I shall be pleased to consider any evidence he may have on the subject. On the facts at present before me I see no sufficient reason for appointing a committee on the lines suggested in the question.
The number of British and foreign seamen engaged at mercantile marine offices in Great Britain and Northern Ireland during the three months ended 30th September, 1931 (including repeated engagements of individuals), was 124,969. Of this number 2,583 were foreigners (other than Asiatics and Africans), and 2,811 were Asiatics and Africans, British and foreign. The number of foreigners among the Asiatics and Africans cannot be stated.
I have every sympathy with the object which both my hon. Friends have in view, but I would point out that, in sonic trades, it is desirable that we should not encourage the employment of white seamen as stokers. In those cases, we do not want to see any reduction of native sailors on British ships, but in a general way I shall do everything in my power to encourage the employment of British sailors in preference to foreigners.