HC Deb 16 February 1915 vol 69 cc1009-10

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade a question, of which I have given him private notice: What are the names of the Business Committee to which the management of enemy ships at the disposal of the Government has been committed, with full powers to deal with them; what are the terms of reference to the Committee, and at what date was it appointed?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

The preliminary arrangements for the requisitioning of thirty-four Austrian and German detained steamers for work in our Home trade were made by an Interdepartmental Committee. As soon as these vessels had been transferred to the Government, about the end of January, the management of them was put into the hands of Mr. Everett and Mr. Newbigin, of Newcastle-on-Tyne. These gentlemen are efficient managers of vessels in the coasting trade, but their private interests do not clash with the duties now imposed on them, for the whole of their vessels have been commandeered for Admiralty service. The managers have instructions to charter the vessels at the market rate, while avoiding any pressure upwards to turn them round as rapidly as possible, and in other ways to run them as well as though they were their own vessels. The profits are paid into the Exchequer. The largest consumers of sea-borne coal in London are enabled to keep in touch with the managers and the Government through an Advisory Committee appointed by themselves for this purpose, but their committee is not permitted to interfere in the management of the vessels.


What arrangements are being made to deal with other ships as they gradually come into the hands of the Government?


I believe that of the total number of interned Austrian and German vessels only thirty-four are free for the merchant service. Some four or five others have been requisitioned for purely Admiralty purposes. There are no other steamers winch are likely to come. As to abroad, as vessels come home we shall have to consider the matter from time to time. We have made no arrangements in regard to them at present.