HC Deb 03 July 1918 vol 107 cc1721-3
63. Mr. KING

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller whether the steamship "Mongolian" was requisitioned in Eastern waters under a Royal Proclamation authorising requisitions only of ships in home waters; and how many ships have been similarly requisitioned?


The steamship "Mongolian" was requisitioned under the prerogative powers of the Crown, and though the formal letter of requisition referred to the Proclamation of the 3rd August, 1914, the requisition derived its validity from the Royal prerogative, and not from the Proclamation. Many vessels have been requisitioned in the same way.

64. Mr. KING

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller whether he is aware of the wasteful use of shipping in the case of vessels under requisition by the Indian Government; whether he controls the shipping activities of the Indian authorities; whether he will specially look into the case of the waste of money and carrying power in connection with the steamship "Abydos" by the Government of India; and, if he has not present powers to prevent waste and mismanagement, will he seek such extended powers as will give unity of command in this respect?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative. As a result of arrangements proposed by the Shipping Controller last year, his representative in India has been entrusted by the Indian Government with the duty of generally supervising the working of all vessels in Indian waters, including both vessels controlled by the Ministry of Shipping and by the Indian Government, with a view to using all available tonnage to the best advantage. With regard to the case of the "Abydos," I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by the Secretary of State for India on the 26th June, to which I have nothing to add.

65. Mr. KING

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller why the owners of the steamship "Mongolian," a company in Calcutta of native Indians, are not allowed to manage the vessel; why the agents for it are now a competing European firm; whether the transfer of ships owned by native Indians to European agents is having a disquieting effect in India, where the idea is thus spread that trade is to be kept in European hands; and what action he proposes to take.


When this vessel was requisitioned, late in 1917, she was urgently required for transport service, and she was treated in exactly the same way as any other similar vessel requisitioned for the purpose. Subsequently, as the vessel was more suitable for general berth cargo than for ordinary bulk cargo employment, she was placed, in the interests of efficiency, in the hands of a liner company, to be run on Government account, a method which has been frequently adopted in similar cases. This policy in no way prejudices the position of the owners, who receive hire on Blue Book terms. I ask my hon. Friend particularly to note, in view of the suggestion in the third part of his question, that if this ship had belonged to an English owner she would have been dealt with in exactly the same way. There is no ground whatever for the suggestion that preferential treatment is given to European as compared with native Indian shipping firms.