HC Deb 29 November 1927 vol 211 cc230-3

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the Shipping Conference Lines quote for cotton piece goods from Liverpool to Constantinople 75s. per measurement ton and only 17s. 6d. per measurement ton from Antwerp; whether, as both these quotations are for shipment per Confer- ence steamers, he will place the facts before the Imperial Shipping Committee and inquire as to the names of the British and foreign shipping lines which comprise this Conference; and whether the Continental lines are prohibited from collecting cargo at British ports?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the freight rate per ton of cotton piece goods between Liverpool and Constantinople is 75s 6d. per ton, and that the rate between Antwerp and Constantinople is 17s. 6d. per ton, and of the effect of this disparity in freights upon trade and employment in this country; and if he will draw the attention of the Imperial Shipping Committee to the operations of the Shipping Conference?

11. Mr. HILTON

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the freight rate on cotton goods from Liverpool to Brazil is 115s. per bill-of-lading ton and from the Continent to Brazil is only 90s. per bill-of-lading ton; and will he have inquiries made by the Imperial Shipping Committee on this subject?


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether the rate of freight on cotton piece goods from Liverpool to Bombay was 18s. 6d. per measurement ton pre-War and the quantity sent to Bombay in 1913 was 1,176,227,500 yards, and that the freight is now 50s. per measurement ton and the quantity sent in 1926 was only 503,044,200 yards; and, in view of the decrease in the quantity since the increased freight rates were imposed, will he ask the Imperial Shipping Committee to consider whether such decrease has been caused, wholly or partly, by the freight rates and to make recommendations?


I understand that the various quotations are as stated in the questions, and that the freight rates for shipments from this country are fixed from time to time after consultation with the shippers. As to the disparities in the rates, I would refer hon. Members to the answer given by the President of the Board of Trade on 22nd November to the hon. Member for Dundee; and, in connection with the first two questions, I would add that there is a Conference of Lines for the Levant trade from Ant- werp, and a separate Conference for the trade from Liverpool. I am informed that in the latter Conference there is no foreign line, and that there is nothing to prohibit foreign lines from collecting cargo at British ports. As regards a submission to the Imperial Shipping Committee, I would refer to the answer which I gave on 23rd November to the hon. Member for Rossendale. If any hon. Member, or any responsible body representing traders, will formulate complaints in a general way, so as to include all the points they have in mind, it will be possible for me to consider whether, and if so in what form, the problem should be referred to that Committee. A number of isolated cases by themselves cannot well serve as a reference.


Can the hon. Member say whether, if the foreign ships are not prohibited from collecting cargo in this country, that when they do collect that cargo they charge British rates of freight, although they are carrying foreign goods at 17s. 6d. as against 75s.?

Lieut.- Colonel LAMBERT WARD

Is it not a fact that the cost of operating a British vessel, owing to the higher wages, better food, better accommodation and Board of Trade Regulations generally, is 75 per cent. in excess of the cost of operating a similar vessel under the Belgian flag?


In reply to the first supplementary question, such foreign vessels are free to come to British ports and load cargo which is being charged now very much higher rates in British ships. As to the second supplementary, there is, no doubt, a great deal of truth in what the hon. and gallant Member says; but I want to make it clear to my hon. Friend that I cannot submit to the Imperial Shipping Committee a case based on the bald statement as to the different rates of freight. If shippers wish to do so, and they have the opportunity to do so through their different associations, they can submit a properly formulated case to the Imperial Shipping Committee, and I will give every possible assistance.


Is this House to understand that the Minister declares, arising out of the original answer, that these differential rates have been fixed after conference with British merchants, and is he not aware that cases have been submitted to the Imperial Shipping Committee before, as in the case of Canadian flour?


May I ask whether representations made by these trade associations are to have more weight than representations made by Members of this House?


I will answer the first supplementary first. No. Trade organisations can make their representations to the Imperial Shipping Committee direct, or they can make them through my hon. Friend. If they are made through my hon. Friend in this House, I will make representations for him to the Imperial Shipping Committee. In reply to the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), I understand it is the case that these rates are decided after discussion with the shipowners. I am so informed.


Does it not naturally follow that we should not have these troubles about the rates of freight if the Government nationalised the shipping trade of this country?


In view of the great menace to the prosperity of the ports of this country by this practice, is it not the duty of the Board of Trade to make a searching inquiry, without waiting?


No. That is not so. We have to be guided by the Royal Commission that was set up to deal with the matter. The Royal Commission on Shipping Rates of 1906 did not consider this a suitable matter in which a Government Department could intervene, and the Imperial Shipping Committee confirmed that view.


Can I not have a reply to my question?


The hon. Member's question was too large for a supplementary. It raises a debatable point.