§ 25 Sir R. COOPER
asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he has a guarantee from each of the neutral firms for whom ships are now building in this country that such ships shall not come under German control after the conclusion of the War; (2) if under the exceptional circumstances created by the War he will announce the names of the neutral firms for whom mercantile ships are now building in this country, so that 2272 British shipowners may assist him in preventing these ships coming ultimately under German control; and (3) if he was consulted by the President of the Board of Trade before permission was given to British shipbuilders to build steamers for neutrals; if so, was this step taken with his consent and approval; and can he say that the building of steamers for neutrals is consistent with the deficiencies in certain kinds of ships which the Board of Admiralty was recently said to be most anxious to fill up?
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has asked me to reply to the question addressed to him, and I will answer the hon. Baronet's three questions together. No ship can be exported from the United Kingdom during the War without the consent of the Admiralty and Board of Trade. The Departments act together and obtain full guarantees as to the manner in which the ships will be employed during the War. The very few ships that are being allowed to be built for neutrals are tied down to British or Allied trade during the War at about half the market rates. The question of the position of these ships after the War is at present under careful consideration, and all steps necessary to protect British interests will be taken. There would be practical difficulties in enforcing a guarantee that any particular ship will not at any future time come under German control, but the point is not being overlooked, and such precautions as are possible will be adopted.
§ Sir R. COOPER
May I ask if it is in the interests of this country that ships should be built at the present time for neutrals which obviously may come under the control of Germany when the War is over?
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Could the hon. Gentleman state whether any of these ships are being built for Sweden in view of the law passed by the Swedish Parliament rendering such agreements illegal?
§ Mr. G. D. FABER
Could the hon. Gentleman give the name of the neutral firm asked for in Question No. 26?