HC Deb 04 May 1905 vol 145 cc909-11
MR. GUTHRIE (Tower Hamlets, Bow)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies what modifications, if any, have been made in the contract dated April 19th, 1900, with Elder, Dempster, and Company, for a steamship service between Jamaica and the United Kingdom; whether, in view of the fact that the condition in Clause 3, Sub-section (a), of that contract, providing that on or before January 16th, 1904, the steamers used in the service to date should be replaced by larger and swifter steamers, with an average speed of not less than thirteen knots an hour, with adequate space for the conveyance of fruit and passengers, has not been fulfilled, ha will say whether the yearly subsidy of £40,000 per annum has, in accordance with the contract, been reduced to £30,000 per annum as from January 16th, 1901, and, if so, what has been the amount of subsidy repaid by the contractors, or what amount has been deducted from the subsidy; whether he is aware that the obligation under the contract to purchase, at current market rates, 20,000 bunches of bananas for each voyage from Jamaica to the English part has not been carried out, and that this part of the contract is now being carried out by an American fruit trust; whether the consent of the Crown Agents has been given to any assignment or underlease of the benefit of the contract, or any part thereof, dated April 19th, 1900; and whether, seeing that the condition of the contract dated January 16th, 1900, with Messrs. Elder, Dempster, and Company, making provision for a service for two ports in Jamaica, has, as regards Port Antonio, never been fulfilled, he will say whether any, and, if any, what, equivalent or compensation has been obtained for the loss to the colony of this service.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Lyttelton.) No modifications have been made in the contract referred to. The steamers at present employed in the service satisfy all the requirements of Clause 3 of the contract, with the possible exception of the provision as to speed (Sub-sect-on b) with regard to which there have been negotiations with the contractors; and one of the steamers employed largely exceeds the requirement of the contract as regards both speed and capacity. No deduction has been made from the subsidy payable to the contractors. The obligation to purchase, at current market rates, 20,000 bunches of bananas for each voyage has been carried out by the contractors with the exception of a period subsequent to the hurricane of August, 1903, when no bananas were procurable. No part of the contract ha3 been assigned or underlet, but the contractors have appointed Messrs. Elders and Fyffes, Limited, their agents for carryingout that part of the contract which relates to the purchase of fruit. The condition requiring that the contract steamers should call at Port Antonio has been waived with the consent of the Jamaica Government, a service carried on by-Messrs. Elders and Fyffes between Montego Bay and Manchester being accepted in the first instance as an equivalent. Since the discontinuance of that service the contractors have initiated a new service between England and the northern ports of Jamaica, the continuance of which will be conditional upon its receiving reasonable support from the Jamaica fruit-growers.