§ MR. CLAUDE LOWTHER (Cumber land, Eskdale)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the English shipping companies enter the new trans-Atlantic combination on precisely the same terms as the German and American lines.
§ THE PRESIDENT OE THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR,) Leeds, Central
I am afraid the only answer I 30 can give to this Question is that the Government have no official information on this subject.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government has no information whatever with regard to this tremendous event?
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the Board of Trade, under the general powers of control and enforcement of the Merchant Shipping Act given to the Board under Sections 713 to 723 of the Act, has power to require the disclosure of any agreement entered into by a qualified British owner of a registered British ship for the transfer or transmission of any such ship to any person or body of persons who may not be qualified under the Act to own or be registered as owner thereof, and especially power to require the production of any declarations made or to be made under Section 25 of the Act; whether the White Star and other companies who have entered into the American combination have been or will be required to disclose the terms of their agreements with the American syndicate, or to produce any declarations under Sections 25 and 26 of the Act, or other documents to show the status of the persons who will, under those agreements, acquire a share in the control or beneficial interest in the ships concerned; and whether he will take steps either to enforce the existing law or to obtain further powers by legislation to prevent evasion or infraction of the Act.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The Board of Trade have not, under Sections 713 to 723 of the Merchant Shipping Act, as the Department to undertake the general superintendence of all matters relating to Merchant Shipping, power to require the disclosure of any agreement or the production of any declaration such as those referred to by the hon. Member. Section 25 merely prescribes the nature of the declaration which must 31 be made by a transferee before he can be registered as the owner of a British ship. With respect to the last paragraph of the Question, I have no reason for thinking that further powers are required for preventing evasion or infraction of the Act, but, as I stated on Friday, the possible effects of the proposed shipping combination are engaging the serious attention of His Majesty's Government.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether Section 25 does not refer to the making of a declaration when either a ship or a share therein is transferred?
§ MR. CLAUDE LOWTHER
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the Government has retained the power of utilising the vessels of the English shipping companies in time of war, and whether they have secured or will be able to secure the same right over the vessels at present in construction.
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
The Admiralty has retained the power of utilising in time of war a certain number of vessels belonging to the Mercantile Marine. The agreements by which the services of these ships are secured also provide for a similar lien over vessels in construction for the respective companies.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
Will the rights of His Majesty's Government be affected by the fact of these vessels having passed, if they have passed, into foreign ownership?
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER
That Question has been already answered. We have had an assurance that these ships have not passed from the control of the Government.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Will the hon. Gentleman lay a copy of the contract on the Table of the House?