HC Deb 23 December 1915 vol 77 cc616-7
Sir J. D. REES

(by Private Notice): I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether he is aware that among the ships requisitioned by the Government from the mercantile marine many, or some at any rate, are believed to be unused, and whether, in view of the high freights prevailing, and still higher freights which are still to obtain, and of the loss of British trade which is being transferred to neutrals owing to the lack of tonnage, the Government will arrange to release requisitioned units whenever, and as soon as the requirements of the Army and Navy permit?


As regards the suggestion that ships requisitioned have been allowed to remain unused, I can only refer my hon. Friend to the reply to that allegation which I made in the Debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill on 18th November. Naval and military requirements have made it necessary to requisition, and therefore to detach from its customary avocation, a large amount of merchant tonnage. Subject to the demands of the naval and military authorities, the Transport Department is doing all that lies in its power to see that the mercantile marine is not unnecessarily requisitioned. As my hon. Friend knows, since last February, the Department has had the advice and assistance of an Advisory Committee, consisting of three shipowners— Mr. Royden, representing passenger lines; my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham, representing the cargo lines; and Mr. Glover, representing tramp steamers. Recently, Mr. F. C. Gardiner, representing tramp and cargo liners, has been added to the Committee, and, as I stated yesterday, it is proposed forthwith further to add to the membership of the Committee. My hon. Friend may rest assured that the Department does release, and will continue to release, requisitioned units whenever and as soon as naval and military exigencies permit.


May I ask whether the Admiralty are in co-operation with the Board of Trade in regard to this matter?


The Admiralty are in association with the Transport Department of the Board of Trade in regard to it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman say how those who advocate an increase of our overseas expeditions can expect a reduction in the number of ships requisitioned?


I cannot enter into a discussion of that.