HC Deb 12 October 1916 vol 86 cc188-9
78. Mr. FIELD

asked he President of the Board of Trade whether he has received a resolution from the Dublin Citizens' Association protesting against the continuance of freights which enhance the price of food and coal; whether he is aware that the Governments of Victoria and South Australia have adopted measures to cheapen transport rates by purchasing and utilising steamships; whether Premier Hughes bought fifteen ships when in London for 10,000,000 dollars for the Commonwealth, in order to place them in competition with privately owned craft; and whether, in view of the dissatisfaction arising from the cost of commodities, the Government will consider the advisability of taking some similar action?


I have received the resolution referred to, and I am aware of the purchase of ships made by the Commonwealth Government. We are doing all we can to ensure adequate supplies of necessary commodities, and I explained on Tuesday the measures that are being taken in the case of wheat, but nothing would be gained by the Government buying ships. We can. and do control British ships fully without buying them.


Can anything be done to lessen these enormous freights? In to-day's "Times" I see it is stated that a company at Newcastle-on-Tyne has paid 100 per cent. on its capital for last year. Can nothing be done to stop these enormous profits on the part of shipowners?


I have no knowledge of the case referred to by the hon. Member, but we have been operating in the carriage of wheat and artificial rates for some time past. We are now going to carry wheat at fixed and not variable rates.


If on inquiry it should be ascertained that the cost of controlling a British ship for twelve months is more than to buy it, will he buy it?