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British Seamen (Employment)

Volume 237: debated on Tuesday 25 March 1930

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asked the President of the Board of Trade whether His Majesty's Government proposes to introduce legislation providing that every ship flying the British flag shall carry a certain number of British seamen?

While I am anxious to secure the greatest possible amount of employment for British seamen, I am afraid that the course suggested would not necessarily help in that direction.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say if he has received any representations lately on this subject from the Seamen's Union or any other union?

No, Sir, not representations, but I have answered questions which have been asked in the House recently to which I have given rather long replies.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that legislation on these lines exists in a number of countries, and has been most successful; and will the right hon. Gentleman consider this fact in view of the abnormal unemployment among seamen at the present time?

That point has been put in previous questions. As regards ships trading (here, they are subject to regulations, but, as regards ships trading abroad, the position is difficult, because, as I have already told the House, I am afraid that any effort may lead to ships being registered abroad, and, in that case, it might lead to more and not less unemployment.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that ships regularly trading here are paying off British crews arid engaging foreign crews, and can nothing be done to stop that?

I have already replied to questions on that point put to me by my hon. and gallant Friend, but I find very great difficulty in dealing with the question.


asked the President of the Board of Trade what is the present number of British seamen registered as unemployed; and what action he proposes to take in the matter?

At 24th February, 1930, there were 21,143 wholly unemployed seamen on the registers of Employment Exchanges in Great Britain, but statistics of the numbers who were British subjects are not available. As regards the second part of the question, no doubt my hon. and gallant Friend is aware of the efforts which are being made to extend trade in the hope of reducing unemployment.

Would my right hon. Friend be prepared to receive a deputation from the seamen concerned when he has seen the Coal Bill successfully through the House?

In view of the serious unemployment which has just been disclosed, will the right hon. Gentleman consider some means of endeavouring to raise the percentage of British seamen above that figure?

I have already replied to numerous questions on that point. As far as I have any influence in the matter, it will be exercised in that direction, but the difficulties are very considerable.