HC Deb 12 June 1928 vol 218 cc783-5

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can state the reason why the two shipping companies owing between them the sum of £565,000 to the Government on account of reparation vessels cannot meet their obligations in this respect; and whether he is aware that in both cases considerable dividends have been paid to shareholders in recent years?


The terms of sale of the ships concerned laid it down that payments should be made by instalments. The companies have paid the instalments and interest regularly, and have consequently met their obligations.


Is it not the fact that it is now more than seven years

kia, it is not possible to make a close comparison between the exports of enamelled hollow-ware from these four countries.

The following statement shows, in respect of such items in the returns as most nearly agree in character, the total quantities of the exports from the United Kingdom, Germany and Czechoslovakia, respectively, in each of the years 1922 to 1927. Similar data for Belgium cannot be compiled.

since the agreement was reached with these companies, and, having regard to the fact that both of them have since been making substantial profits, should not arrangements be made now to have an immediate payment?


That does not seem at all a reasonable proposition. The contract which was entered into with these two companies was to sell them three vessels, which were to be paid for by instalments, those instalments carrying interest. The instalments and the interest have been regularly paid, and I cannot conceive how the Government could now ask the companies to vary the contract and pay the balance immediately.


When the agreement was reached with these companies, was a statement laid before the House in relation to this instalment agreement? Is it not a fact that no information was conveyed to the House at all in respect of such an agreement?


I should certainly like to have notice of that question. I do not think I was in office at the time and I doubt whether the present Government, were in office, but I am sure there has never been any with-holding from Parliament of the, conditions under which all these sales were transacted. On the contrary, frequent statements have been made, and frequent debates have taken place.


When a question of this sort is asked, which naturally reflects on the shipping community, ought not the names of these shipping companies to be supplied?


It is not for me to supply the names. I agree that if a charge is made it is convenient that details should be given. On the general position, the Government have been singularly fortunate in the sales they have made of all these ships, and it is also very fortunate that, all contracts, or so many contracts, have been fulfilled.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir FREDERICK HALL

Is it not a fact that there has been an enormous depreciation and loss since the ships were sold, and, if there is to be any variation, should it not be in favour of the purchasers?


I should be very sorry on the part of the taxpayer and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reopen the question of the sale of the ships.


Can we have the names?