HC Deb 26 June 1919 vol 117 cc341-2

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ship ping Controller whether his attention has been called to statements being made in Canada, with reference to the non-return of coal ships chartered by the Dominion Coal Company, to the effect that British shipowners, assisted by the Shipping Controller, wishing to keep their ships under post-war charter rates as long as possible, have sent Canadian coal by ship to Australia, and that British owners have been assisted by the Shipping Controller in avoiding the completion of contracts in the Canadian coal service at the lower prewar charter rates; and, if so, whether he is prepared to make any statement on the subject?

Colonel WILSON

As the answer is a long one, I will have it circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

The following is the Answer referred to:

I am glad to have an opportunity of making a statement on this matter, which has evidently been the subject of serious misrepresentation in certain quarters. The vessels in question are with one exception owned in the United Kingdom, and prior to requisition for Government service they had been time-chartered by their owners to the Dominion Coal Company of Canada. These time-charters are private contracts, and the relations between the owners and the time-charters are matters with which the Shipping Controller is in no way concerned.

The statement that the ships were used for carrying Canadian coal to Australia is not understood: the facts are that during the course of last winter it became necessary, as part of the general Allied food programme to send several of these vessels (as well as a large number of other requisitioned British ships) to load wheat from Australia to Europe, a service for which their size made them particularly suitable. The owners wore not consulted as to this allocation, nor were they even informed of it until after the necessary orders had been issued to the ships by the Ministry of Shipping. The suggestion that the steps taken were due to any desire on the part of the Shipping Controller to assist the owners to avoid the completion of contracts is, therefore, entirely without foundation.

I. may add that of the five vessels in which the Dominion Coal Company are interested, three have already been released from requisition, and the owners of the remaining two have been offered release as soon as their present cargoes are discharged.