HC Deb 19 February 1900 vol 79 cc360-1
MR. HAVELOCK WILSON () Middlesbrough

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he can state the number of steamships owned by the Houston Line of Liverpool that have been chartered by the Admiralty for the conveyance of troops, mules, or stores for Her Majesty's Government; whether he can state the number of vessels belonging to other shipping firms that have been chartered by Her Majesty's Government through the chairman of the Houston; Line; whether he will state the amount paid for the use of such vessels by the Admiralty, and whether he can state the amount paid by the Houston Line to the owners of the vessels so chartered; whether he can state the reasons why the Admiralty did not charter such vessels, direct instead of permitting sub-letting of contracts; and whether he is aware that the said Houston Line has made abnormal profits out of the sub-letting of such contracts.


Only one steamship belonging to, or tendered by, the Houston Line has been chartered by the Admiralty, namely, the "Manchester Port," for mounted troops. None were chartered by the Admiralty for the conveyance of horses or mules or Government stores. An arrangement was made with this firm for the conveyance from New Orleans.

and the Mediterranean of a portion of the mules required for service in South Africa at a rate per head inclusive of all expenses, and seven vessels were so employed. As I have previously stated in reply to similar questions, I am not prepared to publish the rates contracted to be paid, so long as the chartering of steamers for South African service continues. The terms of the arrangement with the firm left with them the responsibility of employing suitable vessels under ordinary trade conditions, subject to the general approval of the Transport Department. I know nothing of the matter referred to in the last paragraph of the hon. Gentleman's question.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the last paragraph and say why the Government did not charter the vessels direct instead of through the agency of Messrs. Houston?


I think I have answered that. We contracted with them to convey the mules at so much per head, and loft it to the shipowners of this and other lines to select suitable vessels. We were only liable for the rate per head. We could not therefore charter ships.


I shall call attention to this matter on the Estimates.