§ 67. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller the reason why directed grain freights have been raised since 1st January, 1920, to the extent of 60 per cent. to 70 per cent.; whether this increase was asked for by shipowners; will it mean an addition to the bread subsidy; and, if so, what is the approximate estimate of such increase for the year 1920?
In view of the large and continued increase in the price of banker coal which began last summer, representations were made by shipowners that the Government rates of freight were inadequate to meet the increased costs of running. The matter was considered from time to time and voyage accounts of ships were carefully examined by the Ministry of Shipping. It became evident from these examinations that the rates were in fact too low, having regard to the cost of bunkers, the great delays to which vessels were subjected and the increased cost of loading and discharging, and certain increases in the rates have now been agreed as from 1st January last.
I am informed by the Ministry of Food that for the current financial year additional rates of freight represent an increase of the bread subsidy of £1,250,000. For the calendar year, 1920, it is impossible to give an estimate with any degree of precision so far ahead, but if the grain is to be carried throughout the year at the same rates, the best estimate that can be formed at present is that the additional cost to that Ministry will amount to £6,000,000.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is there any chance in the near future of reducing these freights in view of the fact that shipowners did not require the extra rates and in fact do not want them now?
I have not heard of any shipowner who did not require them. The matter was carefully examined into before the increase was made and the rates will be reduced whenever possible.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I for one did not ask for the increase. Is he aware that the greatly increased charge for running steamers is due to Government control? Does he know we are paying in Liverpool £7 5s. per ton for bunker coal more than a month ago?
Careful investigation was made into the matter. Of course my hon. Friend is under no obligation to take the higher rates: the Treasury will willingly accept the difference.