§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Dr. LEECH
I beg to move,That this House views with grave concern the present depression in the shipping and shipbuilding industries due largely to uneconomic State-assisted foreign competition, and urges the Government to take immediate steps to assist and defend these vital and important industries.It is due to the luck of the Ballot that I have the honour and privilege of addressing the House this afternoon on a subject of grave concern, namely, the precarious position of one of the most vital industries in this country, the industry of shipping and shipbuilding. When I made my maiden speech in this House some two years ago I ventured to describe the area from which I come—Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the North East Coast—as a stricken area. I said that it presented to me, as it did to every other observer, a picture of tragedy, exemplified by smokeless chimneys, empty workshops, and tied-up tonnage. If that was the picture presented by Tyneside two years ago, unhappily it is the picture present by Tyneside to-day; and, coming from that area, I make no apology for bringing before the House the subject-matter of this Motion. The Motion is very wide and embracing in its terms and the industries concerned are full of complexities and difficulties. I do not, however, propose to occupy much time in presenting the Motion because I know there are many hon. and right hon. Members of the House who are deeply interested in this subject and who desire to take part in this discussion. It will suffice, therefore, if I briefly commend the Motion to the House.
I think it can be said that the shipping industry of this country in the past occupied a position of pre-eminence. Our position in that respect was due to the inventive genius of our race, the skilled craftsmanship of our workmen and the enterprise of our people generally and it was, indeed, a great tribute to us that in the days when things were prospering in comparison with the state of affairs existing to-day, all our great manufacturing areas, and notably Newcastle-upon-Tyne, contained a cosmopolitan population. All nationalities practically were represented in that city and in other cities which were 386 centres of shipbuilding and shipping. It was, as I say a tribute to us to find that we had those people with us. But what a contrast to-day. To-day, in those centres we no longer find that cosmopolitan population. The foreigners have learned our methods and perhaps our secrets and now the skill of the Britisher is the skill of the foreigner, too. Now the foreigner is building for himself and with the aid of subsidies from their respective Governments, other countries to-day are competing with us in the world carrying trade with disastrous results to our own shipping industry.
The decay of British shipping is written boldly on the wall. We must rub out that writing. Under the National Government a great advance has been made during the last two years by the various steps which they have taken towards rehabilitating the industries of this country. The Government's efforts in that direction have been rewarded with immeasurable and incomparable success. They have brought about revival in our heavy trades, and shipbuilding, I presume, will be tackled by the Government. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already stated, at a meeting in Birmingham a few days ago, that he and the Government are determined to do something to see that the British mercantile marine is not wiped off the face of the ocean. We congratulate the Government upon the success which has attended their efforts in those other industries, and we ask that their attention will be paid now to this great industry. It is the spirit of determination that is wanted. The words "Decay of British shipping" remind me of the words of Emerson, who said:I have known England in her old age. I have known England in her hour of trial, affliction, and tribulation, but I found her not old or decadent, but young and vigorous, and filled with determination to win through, despite her vicissitudes.England won through in the past, and I am prepared to say that if that were the spirit of the Britisher in Emerson's time, it is the spirit of the Britisher to-day.
May I explain what I experienced the first time I rose to address this House—my extreme shyness of the House. It is a remarkable fact, and I do not know why it should be so, but when one who is not accustomed to address the House, gets up to do so, one's tongue seems to 387 stick to the roof of one's mouth. That is what is now happening to me. As I have said, I hope that we shall get some action from the Government, and once the country has really grasped and embraced the necessity, as I am sure it will, I trust that it will be determined to go on. It may be that before we get a general revival and rehabilitation in shipping, we may have to resort to what is known as the "inevitability of gradual-ness." Those words were used by a very distinguished Member of the Labour party, and they have a great and varied meaning. It may be that by the inevitability of gradualness, and perhaps by that alone, we may improve, but we want that gradualness to increase, and to become acute activity on the part of the Government in regard to the matter before the House to-day.
Of course, it is extremely difficult to dissociate shipbuilding and shipping one from the other. They are embraced in the Motion, and we must talk about them at one and the same time. It is clear that if the industry of shipping could be revived, that is, the carrying power, shipbuilding would also revive, as a demand for new ships would be created. What is the position? It is well known to the Government. As I said before, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already made a reference to the difficulties which surround the industry, and the President of the Board of Trade has also made reference to the subject. In Newcastle, I was glad to hear from his lips words similar to those expressed by the Chancellor. Every phase of the shipping world, every sphere of activity in shipping life is involved in the suffering to-day. The industry is in a most precarious position, but I think perhaps the most serious is that of the tramp steamer. As I said before, I am not going to labour these matters too much, because of the number of hon. Members who desire to take part in the discussion. Our paramount need is, of course, the restoration of world trade and the abolition of subsidies.
Do not let the House for a moment believe that I am standing here pleading for the subsidy. I am simply pleading for help, but I think that the paramount need of the moment is the restoration of world trade and the abolition, of subsidies 388 by other countries which give such overwhelming advantages over our own. Other countries, of course, if they believe it to be right, can adopt subsidies. That is their business, not ours; but as their subsidies enable their people to compete with us uneconomically, and, indeed, make it impossible for us to compete with them, it may be reasonable, and perhaps imperative, to use weapons which they are using. I think it is true to say that both shipowners and shipbuilders dislike subsidies. I am not a shipowner, but I am interested in shipping, which is a commercial industry, and by its commercial activity either flourishes or perishes. Owing to the great competition which is being waged against us to-day, shipping as an industry is not flourishing. It is perishing rapidly, as will be seen from figures which I purpose presenting to the House in a few moments.
The industry is vital to the country. It is vital to our commerce. To us in the north-east it is one of a trinity of very great value. That trinity is the industry of shipping, the industry of steel and the industry of coal. I think the House will agree at once, that if we can revive and rehabilitate the shipping industry, we shall make a great demand upon the shipbuilding industry, which, in its turn will demand steel, and that in its turn will demand coal. At any rate, the shipping industry is very seriously involved at the moment. While we had 200,000 men engaged in that industry in prosperous times the number has gone down sadly to-day. Then 8,500 steamers were flying the Red Ensign, with an aggregate tonnage of 19,000,000—nearly half of the world's tonnage. That is not so to-day. That is of the past. Numerically, British tramp steamers—and that is the branch of shipping which is so seriously involved—have decreased between 1914 and 1933 by 50 per cent., while foreign tramps have increased by 33 per cent. Our tonnage has gone down from 10,000,000 to 5,000,000. Those are serious and striking figures, and are almost beyond comprehension. They illustrate, beyond all doubt, the serious plight of tramp shipping, and must have a demoralising effect upon employés and others who were engaged in the industry when that vast concourse of steamers was in being, and who now stand by 389 viewing with apprehension the loading and unloading of foreign goods from foreign ships built by subsidised money and engaged in work in which in the past they themselves were engaged.
At the present time, while our tramp steamers have been reduced by 50 per cent., of the remaining 50 per cent., 23 per cent. now are idle, and those ships which are running are not earning the depreciation required for replacement. Apart from the decline in world trade, the great facts against us are subsidies, low wages, and the low standard of life of the foreigner, which all operate against us, and render it impossible for us to compete. More or less the same thing exists in the other great industries to which I made reference a few moments ago, and, in order to eliminate the evils, the Government took necessary and radical steps, the result of which has been extraordinarily remarkable. We want the same action to be taken in the shipbuilding and shipping industry. We must allow no shipping discrimination such as there is against us to-day. I believe that, in spite of the depression which confronts this industry, we are to-day moving towards the dawn of a great revival. I believe that we are marching rapidly towards the rising sun, and that if we can wait courageously and forbearingly, as we have already been waiting, there is a great prize in store for us in the almost immediate future.
A tramp steamer owner—and it is the tramp steamer owner who is most seriously involved to-day—has to compete with severe competition from the roads and from the railways, and in addition he has to face strong competition in the form of small foreign-owned motor boats. These small boats, of about 500 tons, are doing our coastal trade, and often the master is the owner and the crew are generally members of his own family. The cost, therefore, of running these boats is exceedingly small, as compared with the cost of running a similar sized British boat. These foreign boats trade between one British port and another, and I think this is a point which particularly requires emphasising, as it is just this which is killing our coastal trade. These foreign boats trade between one British port and another, although in most Continental and American 390 countries the British coastal owner is debarred from trading.
This is an iniquitous arrangement, and surely demands some Governmental interference. While our people are debarred from trading on the coasts of foreign countries, that trade is being reserved for the nationals of those countries. That does not apply here. Our coasts are free, and I ask, Could not the Government reserve the British coasting trade at any rate for British bottoms? Would it not be reasonable—this is a suggestion of my own, and does not come from any chamber of shipping or other such organisation—to place a tariff on the gross earnings of foreign vessels trading in this country 2 A foreign coastal boat is chartered to carry, say, coal from Newcastle to London. A tariff of from 10 to 20 per cent. on the gross freight would be paid at the Customs House, and such a tariff would tend to level up the difference between the cost of running a British boat and the cost of running a foreign boat, and would bring a substantial revenue to the Exchequer without expense in collecting.
I think I am right in stating that a tariff is already in existence in the case of fish landed on our coasts by foreign trawlers, and it would seem only reasonable that a tariff should be imposed upon the other man just as it has been imposed on the trawler owner. Against all this, our own owners are confronted with a tax. If they have the good fortune to make a profit at all, which, of course, they have not made in the immediate past, they are confronted at once with an Income Tax of 5s. in the £, whereas the foreign owner can make a profit on trading in our country, and pays no Income Tax at all. Moreover, the foreigner buys his stores and effects his repairs in his own country. This is a battering of British shipping which, to my mind, is intolerable, and our Mercantile Marine is suffering heavily under these State subsidies and embargoes of foreign countries. It is obvious that our shipowners cannot compete with the unlimited resources of foreign States, and unless something is done, and done soon, the coastal trade may pass permanently into the hands of foreign shipowners.
Since 1913 America has increased her ocean-going tonnage by 1,000 per cent., while we in this country are drifting to 391 bankruptcy. Subsidies granted to shipping companies make very arresting figures, and they are figures which I think will thrill the House with the appalling gravity of their significance. I think I make a right statement when I say that something like £30,000,000 a year—this is the kind of thing which we want the outside public to know—is contributed by foreign States as subsidies towards the shipping industry. France alone, in 1932, contributed £4,000,000, in Italy £5,000,000 was contributed, and then we go across the Atlantic to the United States, and we find that the United States made a contribution of no less than £17,000,000 towards their shipping industry, against which we are asked to compete. It is these subsidies which enable these people to come over here and do our coastal trade, and these countries, while subsidising their own shipping, debar us from their coastal trade. The whole position is iniquitous and one which I feel sure the President of the Board of Trade and the Government will seriously consider and take some steps to remedy.
I was very much interested, as I am sure the House was also, to read a speech made the other day by Mr. Alexander Shaw at a meeting of the P. & O. Company. He very forcibly laid before the company the perils—and they are nothing other than perils—of the British shipping industry in a speech of great comprehensiveness, and he pointed out that as the tonnage of British ships entering British ports declined, the tonnage of foreign ships entering British ports increased. He pointed out also that for the first 10 months of this year the net tonnage of British ships entering at and dealing from United Kingdom ports with cargo was down as compared with 1931 by over 6,000,000 tons, while the tonnage of foreign vessels entering at and clearing from United Kingdom ports was up by 3,700,000. These are stupendous figures, and I hope people outside will get hold of them and realise just what they mean to them.
I think the Government should make it clear to foreign Governments that they are determined to secure fair play for the industry upon which, more than upon any other, Great Britain depends for her prosperity and security. This can only 392 be done by action. There are routes where British ships are in imminent danger of being driven, by foreign trade competition, out of a trade which was created and developed by British shipping enterprise. Perhaps some international co-operation may help. I do not know. The Chamber of Shipping has suggested—and I believe the President of the Board of Trade has had the suggestion before him—a temporary subsidy where necessary, or as an alternative, the formation of a group of nations willing to trade on reciprocal terms. I need not labour that. I am not dealing, and I do not intend to deal, with the wider side of the question of world shipping.
I have limited my remarks so far mainly to the coastal trade, but on the question of shipbuilding, that largely depends upon the prosperity of the shipping industry itself. If there is no shipping, there can be no shipbuilding, but if you get prosperity on the one side, then you will get prosperity on the other. While I have referred to subsidies being given to shipowners, I have said little or nothing with regard to the fact that subsidies are given by foreign countries to their shipbuilders, and it is interesting to note that only a few weeks ago two passenger liners were ordered in Italy, although the owners of the vessels were anxious for them to be built in England, but they were sent to Italy because Italy could do them cheaper, and that was the result of a subsidy from the Italian Government. We, therefore, lost the building of two ships which would have cost something like £500,000. It was the desire of the owners that these ships should be built in England, but we could not do it, and the Italians could because they were subsidised by the Italian Government.
The United States of America, which subsidises her shipping and her shipbuilding, imposes a heavy import tax on repairs effected in other countries, and it is of further interest to note that the Governments of France, Italy, Spain, and the United States, so far as they are able, forbid their shipowners to place orders for any ships except with shipbuilding yards in their own country, and, as I have said, they insist on goods for their ports being carried in ships of their own nationality. Few countries except our own allow ships of other nationalities to trade between any ports on their coasts.
393 While I am missing out much of what I wanted to say, I should like to give a few figures which have been given to me by the Shipbuilding Federation. Shipbuilding unemployment, despite the improvement in 1933, which, of course, we welcome, is still higher than that of any other heavy industry. For 1932 the general unemployment figure for the industry was over 58 per cent., with the North-East Coat registering over 70 per cent. To-day those percentages are 57 and 59 respectively. The general figure for all industries in 1932 was 22 per cent., and for the greater part of 1933 it was 19 per cent. Only 5 per cent. of the shipbuilding berths were occupied with work in 1932, and the new orders during 1933 have only increased the percentage of berths occupied to 20 per cent. Eighty per cent. of the building berths are vacant after over 100 berths, representing an annual capacity of 750,000 tons, have been scrapped under the industry's concentration scheme. Even with the recent improvement in mercantile work, the industry has only a little over 250,000 tons under construction, compared with 1,500,000 tons in 1928-29 before the present depression. In the years immediately before the War, nearly 2,000,000 tons were under construction.
Shipbuilding is the greatest assembling industry in the country. For every man employed in the shipyards, two men are employed outside on the materials which go to make a complete ship. In pre-War days the industry was the greatest consumer of iron, steel and coal in the country. In 1913 shipbuilding used 1,897,500 tons of steel, which represented 7,590,000 tons of coal. It is obvious therefore, that if we can get a revival of shipping, we shall get a revival of shipbuilding and the consequent effects on the iron and steel industry. The number of men following the industry to-day is 169,310, and in 12 months 12,000 have left the industry. In 1922 the numbers were nearly double, namely, 358,640, a reduction of 189,330. I do not know that I need trouble the House further. I have many other figures I should have liked to select, but I know that other hon. Members would like to take part in the Debate.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Colonel ROPNER
I beg to second the Motion.
394 During the last two years we have witnessed a very welcome revival in many of our important industries, but there are still two industries, shipping and shipbuilding, which are suffering from extreme depression. If we take a tour round the shipbuilding yards to-day, we find that the majority of the berths are empty, that the cranes are idle, that there is a startling silence where before there reigned the pandemonium of the pneumatic drill and the pneumatic rivetter, and that the unemployed are trudging about outside the gates waiting for the orders which are not placed. The depression in shipowning is perhaps not so evident, although it is just as real. Just as wounded animals are said to slink away to quiet corners to die, so many of our merchant ships are to-day to be found lying in the quiet estuaries round our coasts. They have laid there in many cases for years, and in some cases for only a few months; just occasionally one vessel leaves her sister ships, and then only too often the Red Ensign is hauled down, a foreign flag takes its place, and foreign sailors and foreign money give the ship a new lease of life. I sincerely hope that this Motion will receive the support of the whole House. Such support would give great emphasis to the cry of the shipping industry which has been unheeded for too long and which is now raised with a unanimous voice. We hope to focus the attention of the Government on the urgent need of the industry, and we hope also that the Motion will serve as a warning to other nations that we are not prepared indefinitely to stand by idly and see our ships swept from the seas.
The problems that face the shipping industry, and which will tax all the courage and resources of the Government before they are solved, are of a three-fold nature. The first problem arises from the low level of world trade; the second comes from the excess of world tonnage; and the third from the fact that the British share of whatever world trade is available is growing less in proportion to that of other nations. I want to examine these problems in order to see why they have arisen at all, and to make some suggestions as to how they may be solved. The shrinkage in world trade is a problem which faces all industry to a greater or lesser extent, and, indeed, to-day faces all nations. It is of special importance 395 to the shipping industry, and the importance of it determined the Chamber of Shipping to adopt the following resolution:That the paramount need of British tramp shipping is more Cargo. That is the only stable and paramount cure.Then they added somewhat significantly:That while it may tend to come naturally, it will come very slowly, and British tramp shipping cannot wait indefinitely for it.Available world cargoes have fallen in volume since 1913 by 10 per cent., and in value by one-half. I think the House will agree that this is not an occasion upon which to embark on an inquiry into all those mysteries that surround the causes of the world depression in trade to-day. It is sufficient for my purpose if we can realise that, above all industries, shipping is dependent on international trade. It must remain in a state of comparative depression until such time as the demand for carrying capacity has expanded by reason of a greater volume of trade between the nations of the world.
With regard to the second problem, the excess of world tonnage, if the total of that tonnage had remained the same since 1914 this problem would not exist except as an alternative way of expressing the problem of too little trade. It might be argued that to say there are too many ships for the amount of cargo available is the same thing as saying that there is not enough cargo for the number of ships. Many of the difficulties from which the shipping industry is suffering and many of the difficulties for which they are in no way responsible arise from the fact that there has been a gigantic growth of the mercantile marines owned by other nations. We have already been told this afternoon that the world ocean-going steam and motor vessels have increased by 50 per cent. since 1914. Even if there had not been a shrinkage in trade, we would still be faced with the problem of an excess of tonnage. Some nations, determined to possess a large number of ships, have subsidised shipping and shipbuilding to such an extent that the mercantile marines of the world have increased out of all proportion to the economic demand. We have also heard this afternoon that no less than £30,000,000 of taxpayers' money in foreign 396 countries is being given for the assistance of shipping and shipbuilding.
I would like to give a few more figures to show what is being done and what has been done in one or two countries. The mercantile marine of the United States since 1914 has increased in size by 267 per cent. During that period the American taxpayer has subsidised his shipping to the extent of £1,000,000,000. The fleet of Italy has increased by more than double, that of Japan by 149 per cent., and that of France is half as big again, while the fleet of Great Britain during this period has remained almost constant, and the number of tramp ships has actually been halved. As to the third point, that the British share of whatever trade there is is growing steadily less, the subsidies which have enabled foreign nations to build large mercantile marines have enabled foreign ships to accept rates of freight which cannot possibly be taken by any British owner. Foreign nations in many cases are reserving their trade for their own ships and are discriminating against the tonnage of other nations. Ships of nearly all nations are also run at a considerably lower cost than the ships of this country.
It may interest the House to hear one or two examples of the way in which subsidies are helping the foreigner, and how discrimination is working against us, and of the difference in the cost of running our ships as compared with foreign ships. Two Italian ships were fixed to load sugar in Mauritius for the United Kingdom. One of those ships received from the Italian Government a subsidy of £622 and the other a subsidy of £617. Quite recently my own firm fixed a ship to load Australian grain for Europe at a rate of freight of 26s. 3d. a ton. At that rate of freight a loss is quite certain on the voyage, but owners are constrained to take that level of freight because it is cheaper to lose a small amount of money on a voyage than to lose a steady £20 or £30 a week which is often the cost, of tying up a ship. Shortly after my own ship had been chartered at that rate of freight an Italian ship was fixed at 25s. 9d., a rate which, had it been accepted by any British vessel, would have entailed an enormous loss. I have had figures worked out and I find that the Italian ship on 397 that voyage would probably be subsidised by its Government to the extent of no leas than £2,000, which corresponds to an additional rate of 5s. a ton for every ton of cargo. In the scramble for business in the shipping world to-day we cannot be surprised that the subsidised vessel gets the freight and the British vessel is left tied up in the rivers and estuaries of this country.
An example of indirect subsidy or discrimination practised against this nation is given by the case of the French municipalities and public utility companies when buying coal from South Wales. In these cases it is often virtually a condition of obtaining a State licence to import British coal that the coal is to be carried in a French ship. I have only recently heard of a still greater advantage which is being given to French ships. In the case of a large order for coal from South Wales, amounting to somewhere about 650,000 tons, an additional preference of 4d. a ton is being given to the shipper if he ships that British coal in a French ship. We have also heard that the German Government are insisting that rice from Burma is carried in German ships. The Italian Government, so far as it is able, insists that coal for the Italian State Railways is shipped in Italian ships. There is one other case which I should like to read for the sake of accuracy:Information has been received that arrangements have recently been completed between a German syndicate and Rumanian grain exporters for the sale of 500,000 tons of Rumanian grain at the value of £180,000 a month. In return Rumania is to import German goods to the value of £550,000 in 18 months. This purchase of grain is guaranteed by the German Government on condition that German tonnage is employed in each case. The German syndicate are not bound to ship to Germany, but are free to dispose of the grain in the open market, and, in fact, some has already been loaded to the United Kingdom.It is somewhat ironical that many of these nations which are able to pour out millions of pounds into the coffers of their shipping industry are the same nations which tell us they are unable to pay interest on any debts which they owe us.
Let me give an example of the advantages which the foreigner gains from his low running costs. A small ship flying the Red Ensign had to spend £369 a month on wages and victuals. That same ship was transferred to the Estonian flag, 398 and the £369 was immediately reduced to £227. Take the case of an ordinary 7,500-ton tramp ship. The wages paid in such a ship flying the Red Ensign work out at about £362 a month. If that same ship is flying the Greek flag the wages are only £251 a month, the French £274, the Italian £212 and the Turkish £l20. On wages alone there is a saving in the case of the foreign vessel of anything from £880 to £2,370 in a 10-months trading year. The result is lamentable. Foreign tramp tonnage has increased by 33⅓ per cent. and during the same period British tonnage has been reduced to less than one-half.
What is perhaps even worse, and what is certainly a more startling fact for the people of this country, is that the clearances and entrances of ships with cargo into the ports of Great Britain itself have gone materially against this country. My hon. Friend who moved this Motion drew attention to some figures relating to that fact, and here are some more. Comparing 1933 with 1931, entrances of vessels with cargo are down by 2,500,000 net tons in the case of British ships and are up by more than 2,500,000 net tons in the case of foreign ships. Clearances are down by nearly 4,000,000 tons in the case of British ships, and in the case of foreign ships are up by something well over 1,000,000 tons. I have tried to show during the last few minutes the sort of difficulty with which the shipping community has to contend, and I want now, under those same headings, to try to show the House and the Government how best shipping can be helped.
May I say, in passing, that references to this question by Ministers have led us to suppose that they attach great importance to unanimity of ideas among the leaders of the shipping industry. Although cargo liners and tramps have many interests in common, at the same time and in certain ways they are competitive, and if the Government are going to wait for complete unanimity from all sections of the shipping industry they will never take any action. Tramp tonnage is suffering possibly more than any other section to-day. By virtue of the type of business in which it is employed it is more open to unfair foreign competition and is less able to defend itself. I read in the "Times" only a day or two ago that the North Atlantic Conference had arrived at agreement with regard to the 399 rates which are to be charged in the Atlantic traffic over next year, and that Great Britain, the United States and certain Continental countries were all of one accord and had agreed to rates. With what envious eyes must many tramp shipowners have regarded that statement in the "Times," wishing that they, too, could fix over next year the rates they were willing to take for their ships.
In order that we may, if possible, forestall criticism, I would like to discuss before passing to the proposals which we make, some of the criticisms which will be levelled against the Chamber of Shipping or shipping in general, and which, indeed, have been made in the past. Not very long ago the Shipping Policy Committee gave utterance to, and had printed, this Resolution:The British shipping industry, in the interests of this country and of the Empire, should adhere to the policy of freedom of the seas on a footing of equality for all ships under all flags in all ports in all international and in all inter-Empire trade, and in so doing will best serve the interests not only of British trade and shipping but of the trade and shipping of the whole world.It is now said that the shipping industry, in asking, as it does, for a subsidy or protection has completely reversed its policy—that it shows, indeed, a woeful lack of sincerity in pressing on other nations the necessity for the freedom of trade and in now asking the Government of this country to give it the protection which we believe it now deserves. But the failure of the World Economic Conference to secure economic disarmament, both generally and in the sphere of shipping, has entirely altered the situation during the last year. It is quite true that for years we have tried to persuade the rest of the world to adopt a Free Trade policy in shipping, as we tried to teach the rest of the world to adopt Free Trade in manufactures and so on. This country was not accused of any lack of sincerity when it was driven in self-defence to become a protected nation. Our efforts to persuade foreign shipping communities to adopt a Free Trade policy have been just about as successful as the Tariff Truce which the Labour Government attempted to negotiate during their last period of office. The fact of the matter is that while we are still desirous of arriving at a state of affairs in which the world shall be a Free Trade world, 400 both in shipping and, perhaps, in other directions, until that time comes we ask the Government to fight the foreigner with the weapons with which he fights British shipping to-day.
In going back to the three problems which, I said, face our industry, I will not deal at any length with suggestions which shipping people make for the restoration of world trade. It is much too big a subject for me to try to deal with this afternoon. It has engaged the close attention of the Government since it came into office, and all I would say is that I believe that the fact that we are to-day financially stable as compared with the bankrupt state in which we were only two years ago is one of the greatest factors in bringing about the revival of world trade. We congratulate the Government on the efforts they have made to re-establish confidence not only at home but also in the world, and on the success which has met their efforts in the sphere of developing Imperial trade. We regret the failure of the World Economic Conference, but we believe that the Government's efforts in that respect will not be entirely unfruitful. We hope the time may soon arrive when the adjourned Conference may be called together, and when that time arrives we hope and believe that the shipping industry, among others, will not escape the attention of the spokesmen of this Government.
With regard to the proposals which we make to deal with the excess of world tonnage, those who criticise the industry for not embarking upon a national laying-up or breaking-up scheme have a fundamental misconception of the problem which faces us. They fail to realise the international character of the shipping industry. I noticed, in reading a newspaper yesterday, that the President of the Board of Trade, speaking at Newcastle, on Monday I think, and referring to ships that were laid up, said that he hoped they would never run again. Those are the words, as quoted in the "Times":Those laid up, he hoped, would never run again.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
I only referred to some ships. I think that the inefficient ships cannot make a good case for coming out and spoiling the trade market.
§ Colonel ROPNER
I am ready to admit that the President of the Board of Trade may have been referring to old ships—inefficient or obsolete ships if you like—but I think we should find it rather difficult to know where to draw the line. His words in the expression of his hopes were that these ships would never run again. Why not? Does the President of the Board of Trade also hope that mines which are closed down will never open again, or cotton mills which are not working to-day will never open again? I am convinced that many ships 'which are tied up are very good ships and that they are by no means obsolete. If the argument is followed to its logical conclusion, we may suppose that, in some way, it would be to the advantage of this country if all British ships were scrapped. The only gain that there would be from that would be a gain to the foreigner.
We contend that it is not the job of the Government to live in the hope that British ships tied up to-day will never come out again, but that it is their job to do their best to bring about conditions which will enable even the oldest ships to go out again, and to give employment to British seamen and firemen. Liners are able to rationalise, but the very nature of the trade in which tramps are engaged makes it impossible for this country to embark upon any scrapping or laying-up schemes, unless there is international agreement, and that we are very far from getting.
As the President of the Board of Trade has mentioned the matter, let me turn to the question of obsolete tonnage. I believe that Members of the party opposite frequently accuse British shipowners of being out-of-date and of keeping obsolete ships, whereas what they should do is to build new ones. I am not so sure, as a shipowner, that it is always easier to run a new ship economically than an old ship. Many of the old ships have had their capital values written down, and their overhead charges are considerably less. If you build a new ship, the depreciation is heavy and far heavier than in the case of an old ship. To that extent it is more difficult to make it run at a profit. One quarter of British tramp shipping is already laid up; 25 per cent. of British shipping is rotting at the buoys. It is almost equally true to say that another 75 per cent. is rotting on the sea. 402 Very few shipipng firms are able to show a profit, even in their profit and loss account, and there are practically no shipping firms which can cover depreciation. In my own case, managing a fleet of 50 ships at 4 per cent. depreciation, we should be able to build for replacement about two ships per year. We have not built a ship for years; not because we do not want to do so, not because we believe our ships to be modern, and not because we would not rather have more modern ships. The simple fact is that we have not the money to make the replacements. If the President of the Board of Trade is anxious that obsolete ships should not go to sea again, I hope that he will bring about conditions which will enable shipowners to replace those obsolete ships and to put more efficient ships into service.
Shipowners have been criticised from time to time by reason of the fact that it has been found necessary occasionally to sell ships to foreigners. No British shipowner is desirous of selling his ships to the foreigner. Coniderable sentiment is attached to a ship. Of all the things of which I can think, that which I would least soon sell to a foreigner would be a British ship, and I am sure that my view is shared by the vast majority of British shipowners. Take the case of a small firm with two or three ships and on the verge of bankruptcy, as many are. In order to remain solvent, that firm has to sell one of its ships. Can you blame them if they sell in the best market? Take the banks which are so heavily involved, or the mortgagees, those who become possessed of the ships when firms do go bankrupt; It is only human and natural, and it is only good business, that, where the foreigner offers higher prices than any British owner is willing to give, those ships are sold to the foreigner. The way to stop British ships from being sold to the foreigner is to bring about a revival of conditions which will enable British owners to compete upon equal terms with foreigners, and to offer in the markets of the world as high prices for ships as the foreigner.
I now come to the last problem which asks for solution, that of the British share in world-shipping growing less. British shipping fighting alone cannot hope to compete successfully with foreign State-owned or State-assisted shipping. Manufacturing industries and agriculture have 403 been assisted by measures which, for the time, actually tend to depress British shipping, and at the same time no corresponding help has been given to the British shipowner or shipbuilder. Shipbuilders, and those who work in the shipbuilding yards, as well as the officers, engineers, sailors and firemen, gladly pay the higher prices which are sometimes asked for imported goods because of the import duties, if, by doing so, employment is given to men in British factories, but do not let us shirk the point that some measures which the Government have taken have also damaged British shipping in other ways. Everybody engaged in shipping pays, as a taxpayer, a considerable sum for the encouragement of the production of sugar-beet in this country. It amounts to millions of pounds per year. We are glad that the beet-sugar subsidy has resulted in large increases in the output of sugar, and that it has brought assistance to farmers and to farm workers, but, just in so far as it has succeeded in encouraging the production of British sugar, it has limited the amount of sugar which it has been necessary to carry from other countries. British shipowners arc losing £300,000 or £400,000 sterling in freights by reason of the. limitation of the importation of sugar.
We are consumers of wheat, and we are glad that the British farmer is being assisted with that staple crop, but here again, in so far as the British farmer is encouraged to grow more wheat, there will be a loss to the shipowner through a less demand for wheat from America, Canada and Australia.
Shipping cannot be protected in the same way as manufacturing industries are protected. Some of the steps which the Government have taken to protect manufacturing industries and agriculture have harmed shipping, and we suggest respectfully to the Government that we are entitled to special consideration; to the sort of special consideration which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to the coasting trade when he let it off the tax which he imposed, in the last Budget, upon heavy oils. Shipping, especially that section which is most unable to help itself, and is most vulnerable to attack, is already half gone. We ask that the Government, as a temporary measure, should grant a subsidy to enable the 404 industry to struggle on, while the Government consider and act upon other proposals. I will say no more with regard to our request for a subsidy, except that the majority of shipping people thoroughly dislike having to ask for it. It is something which we hoped would never be necessary, but which is quite necessary to-day if we are to be put on a more or less equal footing with our foreign competitors. The amount which the industry asks is small; a sum of £3,000,000 a year for tramp shipping alone. It may interest the House to know that that represents a rate of subsidy less than half of that which the Italians pay to their tramp steamers. The matter is urgent, because the position of the tramp shipper is desperate.
There are other proposals which the Chamber of Shipping have submitted for the consideration of the Government, and which I will run through rapidly for the consideration of the House. The first proposal is that the Government should denounce and then revise existing treaties, and should negotiate new agreements, stipulating in each case for the employment of a minimum number of British ships. We are still the greatest buyer in the world, and we are the best market for no fewer than 24 nations. We are the second best market for 11 others, and there is an enormous adverse balance of trade against this country amounting to about £280,000,000 in 1932. The United States sold to us £63,000,000 worth more goods than we bought from them. We ask the Government to make use of this powerful position which we hold in the markets of the world, and that the basis of negotiation with other countries, even when they are devoting their nergies in particular to helping shipping, should be trade, rather than reciprocal shipping services. If we are to continue to buy from other nations a great deal more than they buy from us, we think it is only reasonable that the Government should demand, if necessary, that the discrepancies in trade should be made up for by the foreigner buying shipping services. There is a case at the moment where we believe a strong hand might be used, namely, the case of Poland. At present we buy far more from Poland than Poland buys from us, but she is at present building—in Italy, incidentally—two liners which I believe are to be placed on the North Atlantic 405 route. Those ships will be largely State-owned, and they will compete against British shipping. They will displace two Polish ships which are already on that route, and which may be diverted to the South Atlantic, where again they will compete with British ships. We believe, rightly or wrongly, that the President of the Board of Trade has sufficient power to warn the Polish Government that, if they continue to compete unfairly against us in shipping services of the world, we shall have to modify our purchases from Poland in the future.
The second proposal that we make is the formation of a trade group of nations pledged to allow free access on equal terms to each other's freight markets on a reciprocal basis. Our third proposal is that we should impose discriminatory dues on ships or cargoes under subsidised flags, or under the flags of any nations which already discriminate against our flag. Our fourth proposal is that discriminatory Customs duties on cargo imported into the United Kingdom in foreign ships should be levied by the Government. Experience shows that preferential Customs duties are the most rapid and effective way of filling national ships, and in the case of France I have already given one instance where it has become necessary for British ships to be transferred to the French flag in order that they may remain in the coal-carrying trade between Wales and France. We also suggest that cargoes exempted under the Import Duties Act, 1933, and not subject to duty, should only enjoy that exemption when they are carried in British ships. Lastly, we suggest that preferences on Empire goods should be confined to goods imported in British ships. That, we believe, might be done immediately, and we hope that the principle, which is only an extension of Imperial Preference, might within a reasonable time be adopted also by the Dominions themselves.
I am well aware that I have detained the House at considerable length, but the case for British shipping seemed to me to be of such vast importance that it was only with the utmost difficulty that I could decide what points to omit out of those which I had noted in preparation for this speech. I have not mentioned the services of the Merchant Marine during the last War, nor have I 406 appealed for the support of the House on this Motion on the ground of the danger which this country will run if our Merchant Marine becomes too small in case of future war. Appeals for support which rest upon even the remote possibility of war are not too popular to-day, but no Government which has a real sense of its responsibility can be anything but nervous on account of the undoubted fact that already the British Mercantile Marine is too small for our needs in case of another war such as the last War.
I have not mentioned shipbuilding, because shipbuilding can only revive after a revival of shipowning. If the Government do nothing, we shall lose as a nation our most important exporting trade, and that will make the work of the Government much more difficult in attempting to bring more in our favour the adverse balance of trade. Shipping itself will suffer, and I suppose, finally, will die; and, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, not only shipbuilding, but iron and steel, rolling mills, coal, heavy engineering, and many other industries, are ultimately dependent on the prosperity of shipowning. There are innumerable black spots in our industrial areas—the Clyde, the Tyne, the Tees, the Hartlepools, the Humber, the Bristol Channel, Liverpool, the Forth and many other places all round our coast; and in our depressed areas there are men who are longing for the Government to give some assistance to shipping in order that there may be a revival of the trades in which they are engaged. The ocean trade routes are the veins and arteries of that colossal organism, the British Empire. British ships are the blood corpuscles which run in those veins and arteries. Great Britain is the heart of the Empire. If we are starved of the life-blood, the heart will stop beating. Then Great Britain will die, and the Empire will disintegrate.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
I beg to move, in line 3, to leave out from the word "industries" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:and declares that immediate steps should be taken to secure a code of international shipping regulations, and, further, is of opinion that the reorganisation of the shipping and shipbuilding industries under public ownership and control, the building of 407 efficient vessels with modern equipment, and the establishment of fair conditions for the seamen are essential if the British Mercantile Marine is to be restored to its former preeminence.The original Motion has been brought before the House with such sincerity and such knowledge of the industry by both the Mover and the Seconder that I feel certain that not only the shipbuilding industries but the shipping industry generally will be very grateful to the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Dr. Leech) for taking advantage of his luck in the Ballot to bring before the House the desperate plight of their industries, and to ask the Government to consider it very seriously and to take steps by the best method possible to alleviate it. I am sorry that, while we on these benches recognise the plight of the industry, and desire that the shipping and shipbuilding industries should be brought once again into a flourishing condition, we cannot approach the problem of those industries from the same point of view or with the same suggestions for its solution as the hon. Members who have moved and seconded the Motion. Therefore, we ask the House to consider the Amendment which I am moving.
All of the statements made by the two preceding speakers have been on the lines of inviting the Government to make a declaration in favour of granting a subsidy, particularly to the tramp steamers. I want to suggest to the House that that is not a solution of the problem which confronts and has confronted, not merely tramp shipping, but the whole shipping industry. The shipping industry was asked several years ago to suggest methods by which some security might be given to it, and by which some approach towards prosperity might be opened to it. The last Labour Government set up a committee to consider the disposal of obsolete tonnage. Certain very prominent individuals in shipping and shipbuilding and in commercial circles were appointed to serve on that committee, to invite witnesses to appear before them, and, after they had received evidence, to submit a report with recommendations to the Government as to the lines on which they would suggest that the Government should take action in co-operation with the shipping and shipbuilding industries.
Strange to relate, the industry at that time, through its representatives, could 408 not come to any considered agreement as to what it required from the Government. Anything that might be calculated to put the industry once again on a prosperous footing seemed to be as far from the minds of the witnesses who appeared before that committee, and who represented the shipping of this country, as they are, indeed, far from the minds of the representatives of shipping to-day; because, while proposals have come to us from the representatives of, for instance, tramp shipping, we find in the reports of various Chambers of Commerce different resolutions and different approaches to a solution of the problem. The shipping industry to-day does not speak with one voice on the solution of the problem that lies in front of and has been hampering the industry. One only requires to go through the various documents that have been sent to us as Members of Parliament from the respective bodies of official opinion in the shipping industry to appreciate the lack of unanimity and harmony that there is in putting forward some cognate proposal that is likely to bring any benefit to the shipping industry.
I have been surprised at the light manner in which the representatives of shipping—I am not referring specially to those who are in this Chamber, but to the representatives of shipping as a whole—treat this matter of obsolete tonnage. I submitted several questions during the time of the late Labour Government and showed that in 10 years there was sold to foreign nations British tonnage which was considered obsolete equal to three and a half years' shipbuilding at the record output. Many of the ships were not scrapped or broken up, but were used in direct competition at cheaper rates because of the lower price at which they had been bought. It has not been suggested by either hon. Member that another reason why these ships can compete more cheaply with ours is the low standard of manning, the low rate of pay, and the fact that they have not to conform to Board of Trade regulations nor subscribe to an A.1 certificate. While shipowners are to-day complaining that France, Italy, Germany and America are subsidising their shipping, they forget that they are themselves subsidising foreign shipping by 409 giving them ships at a lower capital value, and consequently a lower depreciation rate.
§ Vice-Admiral TAYLOR
Will the hon. Member say what the owners of those ships should have done? Suppose he had been the owner and had had an offer to sell them, would he have refused it? What would he have done himself?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Yes, because I am being asked to consider a certain proposition of voting public money to maintain a particular industry, and I am within my rights in examining that proposal from my point of view without being asked what I would do were I in that position. The fact that the hon. and gallant Gentleman supports the Motion is no justification for trying to make out that those who are not owners of obsolete steamers which they would like to sell have no right to intervene in the Debate and ought not to oppose a proposal which comes from those who have obsolete steamers which they want to offer for sale. I must ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to be fair to other Members. I hope I shall not take up so much time as to rule out any of those who wish to speak, but we have only till half-past seven, and I cannot give way every time anyone wishes to interrupt. As it is, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has taken five minutes of my time, which I consider is more valuable than some of the obsolete ships.
Only yesterday I put a question to the President of the Board of Trade. He was very good to reply to it, and I must thank not merely him and the Parliamentary Secretary but also the staff at their disposal for the very elaborate manner in which they replied and for the table that they sent me of ships registered in the United Kingdom and transferred to foreign countries during the past two years. I am sorry that the table was not included in the OFFICIAL REPORT, because it contains startling figures and shows the countries to which the ships are being sold and the uses to which most of them are being put. I have also a copy of "Fair Play," a 410 magazine published in the interests of the shipping people, which gives a list of ships which have been transferred from the Red Ensign to foreign flags, most of them to Greek owners. The rates at which they are sold range from £1 to £2 per ton, which is very considerably below what a new vessel would cost. The figures are here for anyone who cares to examine them. In the past two years 96 obsolete ships have been sold to Greeks. Not one of them was destroyed. Every one is in commission to-day, manned at cheap rates and the crews underfed—I mean not upon the scale of the Seamen's and Firemen's Union.
British shipowners, who during the past 15 years have been very largely responsible for the plight in which the industry finds itself, come to the House and suggest a subsidy. There are other ways out than subsidies. Every industry in the country has been coming here since the War asking for subsidies. One of the reports sent to us by the Chamber of Shipping states that there are only three industries left which are not getting assistance of some kind—shipping, coal and another. If the Government are to be asked to support any industry, they must lay down conditions. Public money cannot be given to those in the industry to use in the manner in which they think the industry can be re-established. The Government are the custodians of the nation's money, and, if they give any of it to any industries, they are entitled to have some control over the way in which it is spent. Consequently, we submit this Amendment, which says we ought to have national control of the industry. Neither of the speakers who preceded me referred to any of the circumstances that prevail in their own industries. They have told us about foreign subsidies. The curious thing is that one of the nations that are subsidising their mercantile marine to the greatest extent is the United States, which had practically no mercantile marine before the War, and which is now paying in subsidies more than one-half of the total subsidies that have been quoted. Out of total subsidies of £30,000,000 the United States are paying £17,000,000.
We are being asked to join in a subsidy race. Why should we? When is an inquiry going to be made into the transfer 411 of ships, say, to Esthonia or Yugoslavia, countries which had practically no maritime fleet, and were never considered likely to have one, but are now building up fleets and having British ships transferred to their flags, countries which do not conform to any of the international regulations and conditions of service and have no method of exercising control over them. In many cases it is suggested that these are sham or dummy transfers, that the original owners are still retaining the bulk of the value of the ships but transferring them to foreign ports to enable them to compete with their brother shipowners and undercut them by working with sweated labour. Why is an inquiry not made into that before demanding a subsidy?
We suggest that a stop should be put to this shipping ramp in the interest not only of the country but of shipping itself and that the House of Commons should control the industry and enable it to be reorganised on proper lines. Why should we provide shipowners with further sums of money to carry on this same cut-throat method of competition against subsidised competition abroad? If we pay them £3,000,000 this year, what guarantee have we that next year they will not approach us and ask for £6,000,000 because the competition has become intensified owing to the fact that foreign countries have also increased their subsidies? And so we go on with this mad race. We suggest that our Amendment is the way out of the situation. I understood the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) to quote certain rates of pay which were being paid to the Estonian seamen as compared with the rates paid to British seamen, and I should like to ask him if the rates which he was quoting are the rates contained in the brochure issued by the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom.
§ Colonel ROPNER
If the hon. Member wants a reply at once, the case I quoted was that of an actual ship which had been run for some years under the Red Ensign and then transferred to the Estonian flag. The figures which I gave covered both wages and the money spent on victualling.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I want to be sure on the point so as not to misrepresent the hon. and gallant Member, but figures re- 412 lating to wages are also given on page 50 of the report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom. They merely quote the wages paid under the Estonian flag. I think that the hon. and gallant Member, as a shipowner, will agree that the wages paid to the sailors under that flag are among the lowest paid to seamen in any merchant ships or tramp steamers now sailing. Consequently it is unfair for the Chamber of Shipping, in a document which they are issuing asking people to consider their proposals, to take a nation which is almost new in the maritime world and is paying practically the lowest wages in the maritime world, and compare them with the British. In page 51 they give a table which is out-of-date. It deals with 1931, and now it is December, 1933. I am only putting the fact to the House that these details are not up-to-date. Members of the House who are not actual shipowners and who are not able to follow the figures from month to month as vessels are chartered and seamen engaged have been supplied with a table of figures which is practically two years old.
§ Colonel ROPNER
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair. As a matter of fact, I am ready to admit that the table of figures is a year old, but the standard scales as laid down by the countries quoted has not altered at all since then, and, also, it may interest the hon. Member to know, the Chamber of Shipping are more than fair, for, although the table is the scale which is laid down by the nation in question, in point of fact the shipowners of those nations do not pay the standard rate of wages. Whereas he may find that under, I think, Greece a sailor is entitled to £4 a month, we have information which leads us to suppose that many Greek shipowners are paying only actually about one-half of the figure he will find quoted. If we are to get down to more accurate details, he will find that, far from being against us or against the arguments which I have used, the figures of the rates of wages actually paid will reveal a still more startling discrepancy between foreign wages and British wages.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I trust that the hon. and gallant Member will not think that I am dealing with the matter unfairly. I was not going to refer to him at all, except that I thought he was quoting 413 figures from this document. The more up-to-date figures would show a greater disparity. It is rather peculiar, in view of the wages given as being paid to British seamen on this particular date of 1931, that the British seamen, including officers, have since that particular table was compiled agreed to a 10 per cent. reduction for officers and chief engineers, and to 18s. per month reduction for seamen. The hon. Member admits that fact. Consequently, the figures are so badly out of date as to be useless for any comparison in this House as between this country and a foreign country. No reference is made to the Scandinavian countries where the terms of service and wages of seamen approximate more closely to ours than do those given in this table. We should ask the Chamber of Shipping to revise the figures and submit a more up-to-date statement so that we may know how these things are to be considered as far as wages and conditions of service are concerned. In a speech, Mr. Shaw, who used to be a member of this House and who is now chairman of an important steamship company, threw out the idea that we should have methods of subsidy and of Governmental interference with shipping, things which he had always previously hoped would never be necessary. When we find such a leading light in the shipping world as the Honourable Alexander Shaw coming down to the idea that Government support is necessary for the industry, we who are asked to give that support cannot be expected to do so blindly. We must lay down certain conditions.
Among the conditions which we should lay down, and for which we stand, is that the shipping of this country should be taken under national control. It could be put under the President of the Board of Trade, if you cared to do so. However much we may have differed from him in the past in regard to his Free Trade principles, and however much wo may disapprove of his new tariff ideas, at least we will give him credit by saying that we could believe in him as one who could manage a shipping line. In that respect the President of the Board of Trade would make 'an admirable shipping controller in the new set of circumstances for which the shipping industry ask, just as during the War we had a controller over the shipping of this 414 country. We would have to see to it that matters were not run as they were during the War, when, huge profits were made. Large numbers of individuals were able to make excessive profits, and even fortunes, out of the shipping industry.
As our Amendment indicates, we ask for control of the industry by taking it over in the interests of the nation. We are told that it is on the verge of bankruptcy. In these circumstances, compensation should not be difficult to arrange. When you are asked to take over a bankrupt stock you usually get it at a very reduced price. I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade would see to it that the nation did not lose in taking over the industry if compensation had to be paid. We want to put shipping under national control, and, failing such control, we suggest, if the Board of Trade or the Government intend to give subsidies, that shipping must be put under certain control. We would suggest that a committee be set up to control shipping or the methods under which a subsidy was to be given, and that it should also be given powers to examine the whole problem of shipping and shipbuilding. It should have before it for appropriate action the trade routes from which British shipping has been or is being excluded. It should consider the Empire problem in its relation to shipping, consider the effect of the canalisation of trade brought about by Empire and international agreements, and be able to direct future shipping policy in the light of recent development. It should examine—and this is very necessary in view of so many things which are happening in regard to shipping—the Board of Trade machinery and recommend how best it could be overhauled and brought up to date.
Some people believe that the Board of Trade is not strong enough in its activities in regard to shipping. We know that the new rates of pay which are being made to the seamen and the firemen would not be permitted in any industry on shore if such industry were under a trade board. At sea, men are working 60 and 70 hours per week for something like £8 to £10 per month, including war bonus. The committee should have power to regularise the scrapping of obsolete vessels. It would co-operate in 415 the establishment and the administration of self-compensating funds to dispose of old tonnage and to prevent sales abroad, and it would deal with the whole problem of the construction of new ships. We submit that that is something which could be done now by the Board of Trade, if subsidies or State assistance of any kind were to be given. We have put forward our Amendment as being what we honestly and sincerely believe to be the proper solution of the shipping problem, the taking over by the nation of shipping and the running of it in the interests of the entire nation.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The hon. Member who has brought this Motion before the House to-day has drawn the attention of Parliament to a matter which undoubtedly should command its immediate and very earnest attention. We on these benches agree that the House should view with grave concern the present depression in the shipping and shipbuilding industry. We agree that it is due largely, though by no means wholly, to uneconomic State-assisted foreign competition. We do not consider that the remedy proposed by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), who has moved the Amendment, namely, that shipbuilding and shipping should be placed under public ownership and control is the right remedy, and therefore we propose to vote against the Amendment and for the Motion which is now before the House.
The House should consider to-day not only the one special case of subsidies, but the broader issues which arise in connection with the shipping industry. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion said, very pithily, and with great truth, that when it is said that the shipping now on the seas or laid up in the harbours is too much for the world's trade, the fact might be equally truly stated conversely, that the world's trade is too little for the shipping that exists. When it is said that we ought to take steps internationally to reduce world tonnage by 25 per cent., the reason why it may be necessary to reduce it by 25 per cent. is obvious. The experts who were gathered together to advise and to prepare the agenda for the World Economic Conference pointed out that in the period of three years world trade had shrunk in volume 416 by rather more than 25 per cent. That is the cause of the depression in the shipping trade here and throughout the world.
Both the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion have declared, very frankly and plainly, that the restoration of world trade is the only true solution of this difficulty, and that shipping must be dependent upon international trade. We have received a report from the National Chamber of Shipping which has been prepared and circulated in view of to-day's Debate, with a resolution adopted by an overwhelming majority at a meeting of the Council of the Chamber, representing practically the whole industry, on 7th December. The first paragraph in that resolution, which has not been mentioned by the Proposer or Seconder of the Motion, puts in the very forefront of their recommendations this point:The paramount need of British shipping, as of all shipping, is the restoration of world trade by the removal of restrictions and uneconomic practices, including shipping subsidies.They proceed to say:This is the only stable and permanent cure for the present condition of shipping.That is the text from which we on these benches have been preaching for a long time past, and it is satisfactory to know that we have to-day the support of the British Chamber of Shipping. I wish I had time to read to the House the relevant paragraphs in the Report of the Tramp Shipping Committee of that Chamber, which develops the same thesis at much greater length, but, as I do not intend to detain the House for more than 15 minutes, seeing that there are many hon. Members who wish to speak, I must abstain from that pleasure. I cannot, however, refrain from quoting a short sentence from a statement by one of the leaders of the shipping industry, Lord Essendon, who was familiarly known to us for many years as Sir Frederick Lewis, one of the most successful of British shipowners. Speaking recently he said:The Ottawa Conference had proved of no benefit to the shipping industry. Shipping within the Empire had not yet benefited, nor had there been any marked increase in trade, whilst shipping outside the Empire had been seriously prejudiced by the restrictions, duties, and quotas imposed upon it as a result of the Ottawa Conference Agreements.Perhaps the House will forgive me indulging in that quotation. It is for such 417 reasons as these that shipping is in its present plight, and that, as the Committee of Lloyd's, in their report recently stated:Shipbuilding has reached the lowest ebb within living memory.That is the root cause. Protectionist Members who are accustomed to point to the benefits derived by industries here and there from tariffs and quotas would do well to remember, as a great set-off, the fact that our shipping industry has been brought to the edge of disaster and the shipbuilding trade also, because of the shrinkage in the carriage of goods all over the world. The Motion on the Order Paper now shows that they are trying to dodge the return of their own boomerang. The right course has been suggested in the resolution from the Chamber of Shipping in their second recommendation:That the Government be asked to intensify its efforts to promote a trade group of nations willing to trade on a reciprocal basis of equality of treatment.That, again, is a course which we on these benches have been advocating in this House and in the country for the last 12 months. We have been derided whenever we have made these proposals as hidebound Cobdenites, reviving old shibboleths, and that no attention should be paid to us by the Government, but now that our view is supported by the British shipping industry, through its authorised spokesmen, perhaps it will receive more attention from the Government. When, however, the shipping industry calls upon the Government to "intensify their efforts" to create such a trade group, they use a very odd term, considering that the Government have made no such efforts and that, on the contrary, they killed the efforts made by other countries to create a trade group of countries willing to trade freely among themselves. Hon. Members must be aware that after the Lausanne Conference, Belgium and Holland agreed together to form the nucleus of such a group and to invite other nations to join, but the British Government, instead of fostering that effort and helping in its initiation, killed it downright by pleading their rights under the most-favoured-nation Clause, and declaring that they would not concur in any such proposal. Therefore, when the Chamber of Shipping asks the Government to intensify their efforts to form such a group they are 418 departing very far from the facts of the case.
It is lamentable that we should be in the plight in which we find ourselves, seeing that the World Economic Conference was brought together specially to deal with these matters and other such matters. But that conference resulted in ignominious failure, largely, in our view, owing to the deplorable course taken by the British delegation at the conference. The House to-day must deal with the situation as it finds it. The plight of the shipping industry is real, and we must address ourselves to it and seek practical remedies. One of the factors in the situation is the granting of subsidies by many foreign Governments to competing shipping. It is impossible for any industry in any country to stand up permanently against its rivals if they are supported by the immeasurable resources the revenues of great Powers. The danger is that these subsidies may increase rather than diminish, and that the plight of British shipping, bad as it is to-day, may be worsened rather than relieved.
There are three possible courses to take. One course is to revert to the eighteenth century policy of the Navigation Laws. This House has reverted to eighteenth century policy in so many matters that it might be inclined to do so in this matter also, but the Chamber of Shipping have not made that recommendation, because they know that two-thirds of British shipping, two out of every three of our British ships, are engaged in trade either with or between foreign countries. Therefore, two-thirds of the British shipping trade is most vulnerable to any attempt to revive the old Navigation Laws and exclude foreign ships from our ports. The facts of the situation have been very well expressed in another report, which has been circulated from the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association, one of the most representative and authoritative bodies of shipowners in the country. They say:The adoption of all forms of reservation and discrimination in favour of British shipping in the coasting trade of the United Kingdom, in inter-Empire trade, or in world trade, would defeat the primary object in view, and result disastrously to British shipping, both liners and tramps.That is a very sound doctrine. British shipping would undoubtedly lose more than it would gain by the adoption of any 419 such proposals. I should like to quote also the authority of Mr. Alexander Shaw, the chairman of the P. & O. Company, who said:I am not in favour of a general policy of reservation of British Empire trade for British ships only.The second proposal is that of a subsidy, and it has been urged to-day that the subsidy to be given should be temporary, and limited to tramp shipping. Both those limitations would prove to be illusory. Once granted, how could you remove it? How are you likely to be able to end that temporary subsidy unless the conditions which gave rise to the subsidy were themselves altered? To call it a temporary subsidy is a mere subterfuge. To give it to tramp shipping only, to enable them to compete more effectively against liners, is an impossible proposal. This difficulty in regard to tramp steamers arises very largely from the competition between tramps and liners. There has been proceeding, through economic causes, a transfer of business from tramps to liners, and many of the statistics that have been quoted with regard to the evil plight of the tramps are counterbalanced or qualified in some degree by other statistics that can be produced including both tramps and liners. This House is not concerned with the distribution of work between tramps and liners. That is a matter for economic forces and for the trade itself. From the strategic point of view, if we have to consider, unhappily, the eventuality of war, liners are at least as useful to the State as are tramps.
We have to envisage this proposal not as being a temporary and partial subsidy, but as being a permanent and general one. The effect of it would be to help to keep obsolete ships afloat. When it is urged that we ought to scrap a large part of our tonnage and that other countries should do the same, to give a subsidy out of public funds to tramp shipping would simply be to run counter to any tendency there might be in that direction. Further, if the shipping industry is to be helped out of the taxpayers' pockets because it is subject to unfair competition, other industries also have a claim to a similar grant. The cotton industry and the coal industry might claim that with regard to Japanese competition as affecting the cotton in- 420 dustry or in respect of Polish or some other competition in the case of coal they are subject to unfair competition, that they also are of great value to the nation, that they also have enormous numbers of unemployed persons, and that if money is to be distributed from the public purse they are entitled to share in it.
A point in the speech of the hon. Member for Govan also had great force, because if the subsidy is to be given to the shipping industry, it can only be given on the terms that the State would be entitled to exercise a very large measure of control over the reorganisation and conduct of the industry, which the industry itself would not desire. To give a subsidy to any industry in difficulties out of the taxpayers' pockets is an easy and a lazy way of dealing with problems of this character. It was done soon after the War in regard to the production of corn, when £20,000,000 was spent from the Exchequer to assist the growing of corn, at the time of the coal crisis in 1925, when £30,000,000 was given from the Exchequer to assist the coal industry, and it has been going on for 10 years in regard to sugar beet, nearly £40,000,000 having been given out of the public purse for that purpose. Here to-day stern advocates of economy, who say that we should be rigid and ruthless in keeping down national expenditure, propose a further subsidy, which must be permanent and must be applicable to other industries, thereby imposing further burdens upon the public purse. We on these benches do not believe in commercial subsidies of any kind, whether for British sugar beet, Australian or New Zealand butter or Italian or Japanese shipping; we do not believe in subsidies either for beet, boats or butter.
There is the question—if we adopted this principle here, would it tend to diminish foreign subsidies elsewhere, or increase them? Our example would have to be followed by the Scandinavian peoples, by the Dutch and by other countries which do not now give a subsidy; and you would thus extend the system to new parts of the world. Furthermore, those countries which now give a subsidy, like France, Japan, the United States and Italy, might reduce them because we have given them, or they might increase them in order to 421 make headway against our new expenditure. We might have another competition between the countries of the world. Already we have a tariff competition, a quota competition and a competition in depreciation of currencies, and it looks as though we shall soon embark on a fresh competition in armaments, and, to add to all that, we are to have a competition in the amount of subsidies given for all kinds of purposes. Let me quote again the two leaders of the shipping industry to whom I have already referred. Lord Essendon said:The only protection that would be of any avail would be a subsidy. It might come to that, but I am sure that the industry itself would prefer almost any other remedy if one could be found.Then Mr. Shaw said:Although I may be wrong, I should not like to see a policy by which shipping would become a charge upon the British taxpayer unless as a last desperate resort to save our national position, I hope it will never come to that.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Mr. Shaw said that he hoped it would never come to that. There is, apparently, agreement that it should be resorted to only as a last resort. Is there any other alternative? I submit that the right course is not to imitate foreign countries who give subsidies—it would only increase and perpetuate the evil—but to endeavour by direct action to decrease and abolish the evil. In the first place, it would be necessary to secure a measure of international co-operation; to enlist the support of our Dominions, which so far has not been forthcoming, to impress upon them the importance of maintaining British shipping for the sake of their own communications and for the sake of their own safety. If our Dominions believe in the necessity of maintaining the Commonwealth, they should be ready to join in common action for the preservation of an industry which is vital to the Commonwealth. Secondly, there are other countries which do not now give a subsidy, and do not wish to give a subsidy, who would be prepared to co-operate. At the World Economic Conference, France also recognised the evil and might not be unwilling in certain conditions to join in suppressing or limiting the whole 422 system; and, finally, even the United States, through its spokesman at the World Economic Conference, said:The United States intends to have a mercantile marine. It desires conditions of parity for its vessels, and nothing more.There may be a basis there for co-operation. No doubt there will be many countries which will not agree, which will be recalcitrant, and it will be necessary to consider whether there is any form of combined action possible to stop these subsidies, which we all agree are a form of unfair competition. The only course that appears to me to be practicable—it would require careful consideration in matters of detail—is whether it is possible to devise a system of imposing countervailing penalties on unfairly subsidised ships when they bring cargoes into the ports of the various countries who are willing to co-operate in suppressing the system of subsidies, in order to make the subsidies unprofitable. [An HON. MEMBER: "Duties."] They would not be in the nature of protective duties, but countervailing penalties on subsidised shipping. It would be much the same method as was adopted years ago in the case of the sugar bounties, when, in Older to secure the abolition of sugar bounties, there was an international convention for its suppression with penalties for those countries which insisted on maintaining them. That would be the precedent in this case.
No doubt such a course would give rise to various practical difficulties, but every other course that might be suggested must give rise to difficulties, and our duty is to endeavour to overcome them. It would be necessary to determine when subsidies are, in fact, given; and that is not easy when many of the subsidies are indirect. Even the ordinary payment for the carriage of mails may be stretched into a subsidy, and aid is given in the building of ships. We have done it ourselves under the Trade Facilities Act, and even to-day the Government have announced that they are prepared to assist in the financing of another great new ship to engage in the Atlantic trade. In so far as Government assistance is given in that way to the financial advantage of a company, it is a subsidy. We are entitled to do it, other countries give subsidies themselves. America and Japan have greatly assisted the building 423 of their ships, and the American Shipping Corporation has been running a large number of ships at a loss. It is interesting to remember, in connection with the Amendment that has been moved, that America, Australia and Canada have all adopted the plan of conducting a shipping industry through the medium of the State, with a loss of tens of millions to the taxpayer.
Any action, as I have said, must give rise to difficulties, but inaction must give rise not only to difficulties but to dangers. I agree with those who have moved the Motion that this House cannot sit quietly by and see one of our vital industries slowly destroyed, not through its own default, not because it has been beaten by fair competition, but because other countries are using their powers of taxation in order to promote a competition by methods which are unfair. The House, I am sure, will await with the greatest interest the proposals of the Government in this matter, and I hope there will be unanimity in a desire to strengthen their hands in presenting any wisely framed measures which they may be able to devise.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have the unusually felicitous prospect of going into the Lobby with the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), but my enthusiasm for that course has been somewhat dashed by the character of the speech he has made. I do not propose to follow him into the questions of controversy which we have often debated in this House. While I am glad that the Liberal Opposition will give their support to the Motion I noticed in his speech a tendency to keep open every possible criticism against every possible course the Government may adopt in the future. Only one constructive suggestion came from him, and he was in no danger when putting it forward because it is a proposal which up to now has completely failed. If international co-operation which he commends had been a success we should not be now in this position. It is because international co-operation has proved entirely impossible that, as a last resort, the British shipping industry, for the first time in its history, is asking from His Majesty's Government for some 424 support to defend it against a disaster which there is no other means of avoiding.
The speech of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) gave us an entirely different alternative. He proposes that we should put shipping entirely in the hands of the Government. It can only be the gallantry of the race to which the hon. Member belongs that has induced him to make that suggestion this afternoon, because if there is any industry which is less capable than any other of being conducted efficiently by Government it is the shipping industry. We have sufficient proofs of that. Australia lost something like £14,000,000 sterling when she ran the shipping of that country. Canada has lost £16,000,000 in the same adventure, and the United States up to now have incurred a total loss of £79,000,000. France purchased her shipping fleet at the end of the War for £55,000,000 and then sold it for £13,000,000, thus losing £42,000,000. These examples of Government attempts to run the shipping business are not very encouraging to this House.
We are considering to-night a Motion in perfectly general terms, which asks the Government to take into consideration the serious plight of the shipping industry and to devise suitable measures by which it may be defended. The whole range of opportunity is left open to the Government, and I do not think we require to be at all dogmatic upon any particular line, because those who have any experience of shipping know that the only repository of all the facts which are necessary to be considered in such a case as this is the Board of Trade. There are many considerations which will be absent from the minds of many of us in urging one course or another and which are present only to those who have expert knowledge of these affairs. I propose, therefore, to make very general observations. In the first place I wish to make it plain that the British shipping industry, speaking generally, wishes no interference from anyone, that it is prepared to defend its own position and to fight its own cause entirely unaided, provided that adventitious help of a character which no industry by itself can meet is not put up to destroy its very existence. It is only because it now finds itself in a position of paramount difficulty that it 425 comes with a request to the House of Commons to-day.
The British shipping industry has been accustomed to many handicaps, which it has met in the past. For example, there is the fact that British ships have always had to compete with lower wages on foreign ships, with the possible exception of the ships of the United States. But they are not complaining about that, although it is a serious matter. They have faced it in the past and they will face it in the future. There is another handicap which has become very difficult to meet at the present time. It is the handicap caused by the sale of British ships at knock-down prices to foreign shipowners, who run these ships at much lower charges against the country from which the ships came. I would make the suggestion to the President of the Board of Trade that something requires to be done in that regard. I do not know whether one requires to go so far as actually prohibiting such sales of ships if it is proposed to run them, but in so far as they are being sold for the purpose of being run, I think that something in the shape of an export duty ought to be put on the sale of them, in order that they shall be rendered more expensive and the cost made larger than the foreigner cares to face. I only suggest that with great diffidence.
The main difficulty undoubtedly is the one to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen has referred, namely, that of the subsidies which have been granted by foreign nations. I am in entire agreement with him that subsidies are things which ordinarily are bad in themselves. I am also of the opinion that anything in the shape of permanent subsidies is a very great danger to the industry to which they are granted. But I noted that Mr. Shaw, at the meeting of the P. & O. Company, said that you may upon occasion have to give a subsidy in order to keep your shipping alive. My right hon. Friend suggested international co-operation. But while waiting for its realisation disasters may happen. One remembers the story of the great surgeon who at the end of an operation told his students that the operation had been entirely successful but, unfortunately, the patient had died in the course of it. We have to preserve this industry, and it may be necessary to use 426 the method of subsidy in order to prevent disaster coming upon it. We want immediate action. We cannot wait for foreign nations, especially having regard to the fact that at the World Economic Conference in June a series of very important nations refused to have anything to do with an arrangement by which subsidies should be abandoned.
Then what are the considerations which have to be borne in mind? Take the case of many of the tramp ships at the present time. Their experience is that the rates for particular traffics are cut by foreign ships just by the amount of the subsidy which they obtain from their own Governments. The amount of the subsidy in any particular case or in total might be small, but it creates an enormous wreckage and loss to the British ships which lose the traffic. Then there is the fact of which the hon. Member for Govan spoke with so much feeling, that many merchant officers and seamen are tramping the streets without employment. In such circumstances a subsidy is not only legitimate, even for those who do not believe in subsidies, but may be the only weapon which can be used. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen will not agree with me about this, but is is certain that we never had any influence in tariff negotiations until we were able to threaten reprisals.
I am not going to make any unfriendly comment about a foreign nation. I do not suggest that any of them has done anything which is not quite within its competence. Other nations have been defending their shipping while we have been neglecting ours. All I want to say is this: I can only make the remark really pointed by mentioning a particular country which is taking advantage of subsidies on many different traffics. I have the greatest admiration in the world for the present Prime Minister of Italy. He has done for his country a work which every man must laud as of almost super-eminent value in his day and generation. He has built up industry after industry within his own country. Among the industries which he has fostered, nourished and cherished, is shipping. But he has done it by granting subsidies from the taxpayers' pockets. I have no influence and power, but if I had—the Prime Minister of Italy is a great realist—I should be very much inclined to say to him "We are perfectly willing to sur- 427 render our place in shipping if you can build ships better than we can and run them better than we can and navigate them more skilfully than we can." The British people are good sportsmen who know when they are beaten and they would accept the facts. But what I should say to him is, "Do you propose to drive us off traffics which have always been ours, with the aid that the Italian taxpayer gives to your ships? If you are prepared to pit the Italian taxpayer against the British taxpayer in order to destroy trade which is vital to our existence then we must for our very life take up the challenge." I would say that in no spirit of hostility or unfriendliness to anyone, but I am convinced that the question with which we are now dealing is so crucial to the life of this country that we have to make a determined effort to save the situation.
There are other cases with which we should have to deal differently. There is, for example, the situation in the Pacific at the present time. On a voyage which some of us have taken from Australia by way of New Zealand to Honolulu and Vancouver—
§ Sir R. HORNE
I did not play it but I heard it. On that voyage as long as Honolulu was not part of American territory our ships were entitled to call there and to go on to San Francisco and do that trade. Now, since Honolulu has become part of American territory, we are not entitled to make the voyage between Honolulu and San Francisco with any traffic. It is regarded as coastwise traffic of the United States and we are excluded from it. But American ships run from Sydney to Auckland within our Empire and then are free to go anywhere they like. I do not think it is unfriendly to the American nation to say, "What you regard as good practice in your case is at least legitimate for us." I am not sure that other nations are not regarding us as fools for not having taken advantage of the position in which we are. I am certain that they will never make any concessions to us until we have got rid of these follies.
Hon. Members have spoken of other difficulties of our shipping. Lines which 428 are running against us in the Pacific at the present time are subsidised to the extent of between £400,000 and £500,000 a year. Those are subsidies which cannot be justified on the basis of any service, such as the carriage of mails. Our ships are carrying all the mails between San Francisco and Vancouver at a fee for service and for shipping space placed at the disposal of the Government agents in connection with Post Office matters, for something like £68,000 a year. I give that as an example of the kind of difficulties with which British shipping is meeting. I rather think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen would agree that in such cases we should call together the representatives of the British Dominions and put to them the proposition that the Empire would be seriously injured if this competition ran British boats off the sea in that traffic, and that we had better adopt the earliest possible remedy that we can find in order to deal with the matter.
There are many things, of course, which may be suggested to be done—for example, in making treaties such as my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has been making recently in regard to trade between various countries, shipping should be kept in mind and stipulations might be made that goods should be carried to some extent in British bottoms, in the same way as is stipulated with some countries that they must take a certain amount of British coal. That is one thing which I think is worthy of attention, and there are other ways, in connection with port dues and dock dues, by which we could give an advantage to goods which were brought in British ships. I do not dilate on these things now.
I have the greatest possible confidence, from the speeches made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade in the last few days, that this great and serious question is to be investigated with determination, and that the difficulties with which we are faced are to be given a remedy which in the wisdom of the Government they think the best that can be devised. But of one thing I am sure, and that is that we have to make foreign nations aware that the British people are aroused upon this subject, and that they do not mean 429 to surrender the place which they have had through all the centuries on the seas of the world.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Sir CHARLES BARRIE
The ground has been so well covered by so many speakers and there is so little time left to me, that I purpose to be very short and to deal with only one or two concrete facts. As a shipowner of, I am ashamed to confess, some 40 years' standing, I do find in the industry at the moment conditions which, if we were in one of the ordinary cycles of trade depression, the shipowner could contend with; but the position in which the shipping 'industry now finds itself is a parlous condition and one of which the industry cannot rid itself. The shipping industry, therefore, welcomes this Debate and the opportunity of ventilating a matter which has been the subject of a certain amount of controversy and comment in the Press for a considerable time. The shipping industry suffers from one thing alone, and that is the want of international trade and no subsidies that we can institute will ever take the place of international trade. But if other countries are to subsidise their tonnage so as to jeopardise our position as a maritime nation, surely it is the business of the Government to try, as far as they can to help the shipping industry to tide over the short interval until international trade recovers and the industry is enabled to get on its legs again.
The shipowners fully expected that a lot of the remedies which were adopted to help other industries in the country would affect shipping. What they ask now is that until international trade recovers, and until they have a chance to help themselves, the Government should give them a certain amount of aid in one way or another. The proposal made by the Tramp Shipping Committee, of which I was a member, was that a small subsidy amounting to £3,000,000 a year should be granted to tramp-owners for a short time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was sceptical about that proposal. He thought it was the thin end of the wedge of a permanent subsidy. Nothing of the kind. I can tell the House that it was with the greatest difficulty that the Tramp Shipping Committee came to the decision to ask for any subsidy at all. They would prefer the Government to put into operation other means, which they believe are 430 at the Government's disposal, in order to meet the present difficult position.
I am interested in a line which runs between this country and Poland. It is the line referred to by the hon. Member who seconded this Motion. That line used to run several sailings each fortnight with bacon and other produce to this country but in order to satisfy the aspirations of the nationals of that country we had to give up half our trade. Another branch of the same line which covers several other ports in the Baltic had the same experience, until, fortunately, the bacon quota began to loom in the distance and after the President of the Board of Trade and the Foreign Secretary had mildly suggested to these other countries that perhaps a half-loaf was better than none at all, they thought better of their attitude in this matter. The suggestion which I have to make is that in all trade agreements that are being made we should take care of the interests of our shipping as well as of any other section of our industry. That indicates one avenue which might be and no doubt is being explored. Our position as a maritime nation, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir B. Home) has said, has definitely declined in the last two or three years. We used to own 50 per cent. of the world s tonnage. Now we only own 43 per cent. and there is a general tendency for British shipping to go down. We have 47,000 British sailors walking the streets to-day. Is that a position which this great maritime nation likes to see? Is it not worth while trying to help this industry in some shape or form?
This is not a party question. It is a question for the whole House of Commons. It is of national importance that we should do all we can to help this in dustry which, through no fault of its own, but on account of circumstances has got into difficulties. I notice that an agreement was made with the Argentine not long ago. What is the position in regard to that country? Only one-third of the grain and goods of that character, coming from that country, are carried in British ships. The Italian Government the other day bought large quantities of nitrate from Chile. They stipulated that it was to be carried in Italian ships. The Seconder of the Motion also drew attention to the fact that Italian ships, under a subsidy, brought large quantities of 431 sugar from Mauritius to this country. I think he omitted to make the point that that very sugar was produced in Mauritius under a subsidy given by this country. Thus British shipowners had the mortification of seeing British subsidised sugar, grown in Mauritius, brought to this country in Italian ships. Two of the largest millers in this country have made a praiseworthy effort by stipulating as far as they can for the use of British vessels but the main facts of the situation have been so well explained during this Debate that I refrain from giving any further particulars of this kind.
I would emphasise that the question before the House and the country is not whether the shipowner is to get the subsidy and whether he is to benefit. The question is one for the nation. Are we to stand idly by and face the possibilities which would arise, in the event of a war, should the present shipping situation continue? We pray that there may not be another war, but if such an event did occur we would then have to rely, even more than we did during the last War, on foreign tonnage to bring us, not only food, but the very oil for our battleships. I think the country, if they realised the position, would unhesitatingly say, "No matter what the cost, the British maritime fleet must be maintained at a high level of efficiency."
I wish to make one reference to coastal shipping. So much attention has been attracted by the big liners which trade to and from this country and so much glamour surrounds them, that we are inclined to forget the coastal fleets. There are no fewer than 307 different lines of coasting steamers and there are 70 different ports fed from London alone by these little vessels, which did so much during the War to help the Fleet and the country in general. Their trade is being threatened by foreign vessels which are run at about half the cost. If the same treatment were meted out to these foreign vessels as to the British vessels, and if they had to trade under the same conditions, we would find no objection. In the case of Australia, for instance, any vessel engaging in coastal trade there has to pay the same rate of wages and conform to the same conditions as the Australian vessels. All we ask for the coastal trade of the country is that foreigners trading on the coast here 432 should have to comply with the very same conditions as our vessels, whether those are Board of Trade conditions or otherwise.
I sympathise—although I am sure he does not ask for my sympathy—with the President of the Board of Trade in having to deal with this matter. It is not an easy question to resolve. Subsidies, of course, are not new in the case of the foreigners, and it is only as a result of the scarcity of foreign trade during the last few years and the fact that these foreign countries have been extending their fleets so much that we find ourselves in the present difficulty. In connection with the scrapping of ships I agree, curiously enough, with the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean). I raised this question in the House over a year ago and it is not too late yet to do something in that respect. We could get rid of difficulties as to selling tonnage abroad, if the Government would make up their minds to help shipbuilding and shipowning at the same time by scrapping all the vessels that are now rotting in our ports and using the steel in order to produce new steel for new vessels. That, besides assisting the shipbuilding industry, would assist the shipowner by giving him new tools to work with and would help in defeating foreign subsidised competition. I repeat that this is a national question and not merely one for the shipowners, and it must be viewed in that light. The shipowner is not asking for a subsidy out of charity. He is asking for a subsidy in order to keep our mercantile fleet going so that it may be there for the use of the country in any national emergency, and in order to keep our flag on the seas. It is not a shipowners' matter; it is a matter for the Government to deal with nationally, and I hope they will be able to come to the assistance of this vital industry and help it through the present crisis.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I regret very much that it should be necessary for me to intervene at this stage, and to prevent one or two of my hon. Friends who wished to do so from taking part in this Debate. We are greatly indebted to the hon. Member for West Newcastle (Dr. Leech) for having introduced this topic and I am only sorry that, under the Rules 433 of the House, so little time is available for the discussion. There has been in the course of the Debate a very wide covering of ground. Some of the speeches have been full of material and that of the Seconder in particular was marked by a knowledge which has been gained from the ripe experience of himself and his family. The difficulty with which we are all faced in dealing with the subject of shipping is that information on shipping is almost worldwide and that there is no one who knows all about it. Anybody who would claim that he knows all that there is to be known about British shipping would be either a liar or a fool. All the different classes of shipping which came under consideration to-day show how varied are the problems with which we have to deal. The tankers present one problem; the coastal vessel another, the ordinary tramp a third, the cargo line yet a fourth, and the passenger liner a fifth, and indeed I could go on for a long while enumerating different classes of shipping in which different problems arise. Indeed you may find competition being conducted between various classes of shipping under the British flag just as keenly as between vessels sailing under different flags.
Dealing with this subject in the short time at our disposal I can only give a sketch as I go along, first of the problem with which we are faced, and secondly of the means which might be taken to deal with that problem. I dismiss at once the proposal which was made from, the Opposition Front Bench. The experiences of America and Australia are quite sufficient to dispose of the idea that we can get out of our present troubles if we hand our merchant fleet over to the Government to be managed by the Government. Even if the Government were composed of experts, even if it consisted of the President and the members of the Council of the Chamber of Shipping, that would be insufficient to make such an experiment succeed. You cannot by that method manage a great industry like shipping, especially when you are fighting for your existence in that industry. That is not the experience of one nation but of all nations. You cannot conduct an industry of this kind without being in daily touch with those very sensitive markets, the freight markets in the Baltic and elsewhere, and without having a knowledge of the amount of traffic likely 434 to be carried in various parts of the world and, for that purpose, the Government and Parliament would be totally unfit.
Let me point out how largely the present plight of British shipping is due not to political but to purely economic causes. It is impossible to run any fleet, either a tramp fleet or a liner fleet, at a loss for long without not only exhausting the funds of the company or the persons owning the ships but also making it impossible for those companies or persons to rebuild their fleets. A part of the problem which we are discussing is that of shipbuilding but as the hon. Member for West Newcastle said, shipping and shipbuilding are practically one and the same thing. An unprofitable shipping industry means fewer orders for the shipyards; a profitable shipping industry means more orders for the shipyards. What is the reason why there has been such a tremendous fall in the profits made by these various companies? I should like to interpolate the explanation that I am not speaking only of the shipowner, although he is just as worthy of consideration as any other member of the community. I am thinking of all classes of men who are connected with shipping—shipowners, sailors, firemen, engineers, navigating officers, ships' officers, those who are working in the manufacturing and repairing side of the industry, and those who are performing all the commercial duties which are necessary for the maintenance of a big merchant fleet, and with the help of whom alone a merchant navy is able to exist.
The reason why profits have gone down since the War is, as the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) truly said in a sentence that was, however, not altogether wise, undoubtedly the shrinkage of world trade. The right hon. Gentleman admits that the merchant navies of the world are too numerous, but he thinks that reducing their number is not the way to set about solving the problem. The proper way, he thinks, is to increase the volume of the country's trade. I accept that as a commonplace which is perfectly true—like a great many other commonplaces. The really important thing for us is that they have got completely out of balance. As an illustration, if a cargo of maize is to be brought home from the River Plate and 435 there are five or six, or 16 or 20, vessels anxious to carry that cargo home, the rate goes down. It may start at 25s., but it is not like a railway rate, which only changes, perhaps, with summer time. The owner or the broker of that cargo, watches the market day after day and finds that he can get it down to 20, below 20, to 17s. 6d., and 15s. 9d.; and then at last he takes his ship. The vessel that takes that cargo has to take it because it often has no other means of getting home without making a dead loss. In fact, it probably does make a dead loss at that rate, but its loss is a good deal less than it would make by lying up in" the River Plate or by going out of action altogether.
It is the market moving up and down which decides the direction in which traffic shall go. There are too many people who do not know much about shipping but who look on it rather like a railway service, or think of it in terms of the regular passenger lines which are spread out all over the world. What is true as regards liners is probably quite untrue as regards a tramp. A tramp may go away from this country with a cargo of coals for Brazil, and the owner may not know what ports it is going to visit before it gets home again. He may send the ship for a ballast trip from Pernambuco to Sydney, or he may send her round Cape Horn or through the Panama Canal to the Pacific. There is nothing to decide what he shall do except the movements of the market. The tendency during the last few years has been for the markets to sag away directly vessels appear. When vessels are put on the market operating tonnage in any part of the world, down goes the market to such an extent that it is almost impossible on some routes not only to make ends meet but to come within a thousand pounds of making ends meet.
What is the biggest shrinkage we have seen in the carriage of these great world commodities? There is, of course, less grain carried now than there was, and that hits the tramp far harder than the liner. In the grain markets of the world, the British liner is sometimes competing with the British tramp. Some of my hon. Friends think that there is one cure for the problems of both these industries. What, however, would they do in a case of this kind, when liners are 436 picking up cargoes of wheat that used to be carried by tramps and, conversely, the tramp is ready to operate and pick up the various parcels which formerly went into the bottom of the liner, and to do so at a lower rate, undercutting the liner? You cannot apply the same cure to both classes of ship. We are all well aware of the fact that the competition between the two leads to great expense.
The reason why the report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom is different from the report of the Liverpool Steamship Owners is that the report of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom owes its origin to the tramp members of that Chamber. They are probably the ablest managers of tramp shipping to be found anywhere in the world. I know a very large number of them, and in times past, when I was not otherwise engaged, I used to have to compete with them, and I know what their mettle is like. They know how to set out their case, they know how to manipulate their shipping, they know how to conduct their business better probably than any other business men in the Empire. They have set out in their report—a most admirable document—the whole of the facts of the problem with which they are faced, and they have summed it up in a request to the Government to give them the assistance of a subsidy. The Chamber, when it sits not with the tramp owners only, but with representatives of the other branches of shipping as well, naturally doss not put this demand in that form; it does not regard that as the only way out of the trouble. Those who conduct the general shipping business within the Empire have to meet an entirely different set of conditions to those of my friends of the tramp trade who have been sitting for some time evolving a scheme and doing their best to secure agreement on the questions involved. With complications of that kind before us, we do not find it at all easy to know how best to give permanent benefit to the British shipping industry.
Before I sit down I shall have some-thing to say with regard to that subject, but meanwhile we had better understand the conditions under which we are existing. The gross tonnage of the world is far greater in volume than it was before the War, with an amount of world trade 437 far less than it was before the War. Freights have therefore naturally gone down since before the War taking 1913 as the base period, from 100 to 70 or 80. On the other hand, the expenses of running the ship, of having to carry on with freights at that very low level, is probably anything from 40 per cent to 50 per cent. greater. How is it possible for that state of affairs to continue without our getting deeper and deeper into the plight in which we find ourselves? The tramp trade has been very largely dependent upon the carriage of outward cargoes from this country. The fact that coalfields have been developed abroad and that oil has cut into many of our coal markets, has brought about a very great drop in the export of coal to foreign countries, which used to be the staple outward cargo of the tramp vessels. Nothing but the restoration of that coal trade to something like its former volume will give British shipping the full chance it had in its palmy days.
Then, while I am speaking on the subject of freights, I ought to point out that there is this difference between the liners and the tramps. The liners have long since organised all their routes, under the control of what are called "conferences." These conferences reach agreed rates at which they would carry the various commodities and passengers in the various classes of their vessels. The conferences have been worked, on the whole, for the benefit of the trade of the world as a whole. The House may be interested to know that when the Imperial Shipping Committee has inquired into freight rates on a suggestion of an abuse of the conference system, they have without a single exception, reported that they regard these conferences as of real value to those who use the ships, to the cargoes that are carried in them, and to the countries that they serve. There is nothing like that in the tramp industry.
I am not sure that those of us who have been connected directly with that industry have been altogether wise in not taking a leaf out of the liners' book. It may be that we have lost a great opportunity there. But the difficulty of arriving at an agreement in an industry that is so varied and under the control of so many different nationalities is of course almost insuperable. I do not need to describe to the House what happens if you have minimum rates such as might 438 be reached through the conferences by the liners. An owner breaks away, and how does he set about it? If he is not a very straight fellow, he probably has a private understanding with his merchant, or there has been some hint as to the terms upon which he does it, or as to the slowness or the rapidity with which his cargo is discharged—there are all sorts of ways of getting round those arrangements.
If the difficulty has been encountered in this country, how much greater must it be when one has to deal with people of 18 or 20 different nationalities? There is one institution which has done admirable work for the merchant shipping not only of this country but of all the Northern European countries, namely the Baltic and White Sea Conference. I am not sure that it would not be in the best interests of all concerned that the influence and power of a conference like the Baltic and White Sea Conference could be largely extended, but I will say at once, with such knowledge as I have, that it will be impossible for the tramp traders, the tramp companies, to deal with their problems exactly as the liners have already dealt with theirs. That is an additional reason for saying that we cannot hope, by one and the same cure, to deal with the problems of the two branches.
It is very easy to describe the plight into which shipowners and the shipping community as a whole have slipped. It is very difficult to explain to the 60,000 or 70,000 seafaring men who are walking about the streets of our seaports that the world shrinkage is the explanation of their unemployment. A great many of them are quite intelligent enough to know that. You cannot explain it to the whole of them; they think there are a great many other explanations, and amongst the other explanations I have no doubt that they imagine that the abandonment of the policy of Free Trade has had something to do with it. Do not, however, let us, in a discussion of these subjects, be led away to look for fiscal causes for every trouble. The right hon. Member for Darwen tends to employ two different arguments when he is dealing with shipping and when he is dealing with tariffs. I read a speech which he made somewhere in the provinces during the last few days, in which he recognises how serious is the condition of the 439 shipping industry. I am sure, if cotton had been the subject, he would have made a different speech. This afternoon he tried to find some cure for the troubles of shipping. Listening to his speech, I found him taking one suggestion after another which had been made and turning them all down. Nothing would do what he wanted; nobody's suggestions would satisfy him except perhaps that of a Free Trade group. That was the only one. He said that we ought to negotiate with foreign countries. What have I found? I have found that unless you have something to negotiate with, you need never take your ticket to any one of the European capitals.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The right hon. Gentleman may not have noticed that I did make a definite concrete suggestion for practical means that could be used in such negotiations.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
If we are to negotiate as the right hon. Gentleman says, we must have some means of negotiating—to put it roughly—a threat. What does my right hon. Friend say to that, or how does he propose to help us in our investigations?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am afraid that I must have been listening rather carelessly. It surprised me to hear that the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of retaliation.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
If it is going to help us to negotiate with foreign countries, we will have to have something to give away. That is exactly what must happen in all negotiations. We have had some experience of negotiating on this very subject quite recently. When the World Economic Conference was sitting at South Kensington, one of the Sub-committees dealt with the question of the shipping subsidy, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was made chairman of that committee and conducted its deliberations with great skill. But what was his experience? With the exception of Norway, 440 Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and—rather grudgingly and full of conditions—France, although every flag was represented at that conference, there was not one except those I have named who would support our anti-subsidy policy. They were all determined to go on, and their subsidies take many forms. They are not only plain, straightforward mileage subsidies, but subsidies that are given to shipbuilding—so much a ton—and some of them vary their subsidies according to the speed of the vessel. They give it sometimes by way of discriminating dues, and some by way of taxation, and in the case of the United States of America, where they had a superfluous fleet on their hands, they chartered it out to the, shipping companies out there at fictitious rates, and the managers of these vessels, which they had received under their control at fictitious rates, were able to run at far lower freights than those necessary in the ordinary freight market. They were just as guilty of subsidies as though they had given hard cash.
In the discussions, in some of which I took part, as a listener, I was surprised to find how determined were some of the European countries to have nothing whatever to do with even the diminution of subsidies, much less the wiping of them out in any shape or form. I am afraid that we made no progress, and one of the reasons why we made no progress there was because we were not able at that time to be sure that we should be able to attack those who offended without-doing more harm to ourselves than to them. I beg the House not to be in too great a hurry. I know that everybody in the shipping industry is impatient to find some way out of their present troubles, but if we were to jump at one conclusion to-day, we might find that we were building up for ourselves damage or injury which would cripple another section of our shipping or perhaps another section of our trade of very great importance. We have to weigh and counterbalance with very great care what we are doing.
The proposal, however, which has been put before us, and is already being considered as a practical proposal, is that which comes from the Chamber of Shipping with regard to a subsidy for tramp ships. I want to make quite clear at this stage that the temper of this country has been aroused on this subject.
441 The Government are conscious of that, and though it has not been open to us in the last few months to say much in public, we are well alive to the fact that, unless we can bring home to the aggressive countries, who are fighting us with finance as well as with ships and men, the fact that we can hit, and hit hard, that our resources can be put at the disposal of this great and essential industry, I do not believe we shall make any progress at all. To-day already, in answer to a question, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown that the financial resources of this country are going to be put to the service of this essential industry. The form in which the assistance is given in that case is not applicable to any other, but it is a portent, and I would suggest to those who look after the interests of the foreign flags that that portent is of practical value.
I am not so certain that we should come to the end of our troubles even if we were to adopt a subsidy of 10s. and of 5s. See how easy it would be for that 10s. to slip through the fingers of the shipowner. If he is going to get a subsidy of 10s. and comes into the freight market, the same market that I described earlier, he comes with the 10s. up his sleeve, and the tendency will be for him to bid right up to the limit of that 10s. in order to get his cargo, and he finds when he is doing that that the 10s. which we have given him, instead of going for the benefit of shipping, may be going for the benefit of a merchant, perhaps a foreign merchant belonging to a nationality we do not like. It is possible it may go in a direction we may never have intended, and I think it is really up to the shipping community as a whole to find means which they recommend to us with certainty, and that we can accept, by which any financial aid that we give shall not be dissipated in that way.
That is the part they can play, and I have no doubt, as they are very able men and know their business very well, and as they are in the habit of acting quickly, they will very soon have some suggestions to make to us under that heading. But observe that the subsidy for which they have asked is to be temporary. It is to be limited in time and in amount. It is to be applied to safeguarding an industry which is passing through a great 442 crisis and which in some respects is passing, as my hon. Friend behind me said, from one stage to another in its development. I would add that as it is frankly an emergency measure, its object is not to bolster up the inefficient ships or the inefficient managers of ships, but to preserve something that is of vital value to the country as a whole, and the reason why I think we are justified in asking for assistance—I find it a little difficult sometimes to keep clear of the knowledge that I had shipping connections in the past, but I hope the House will forgive that slip. The reason why I think it is necessary that we should be careful about these matters, that we should preserve and foster particularly the tramp shipping of this country, is that that tramp shipping is absolutely essential, not only for our well-being in peace time, but for our organisation if perchance we should once more be engaged in war.
The Admiralty is almost as much interested in this as the Chamber of Shipping itself. We must, therefore, regard tramp shipping as being a national service in the broadest sense of the word. I would only say, with regard to the great liners, that they are having to meet a competition nowadays from State-aided concerns which has landed them in great difficulties. My right hon. Friend, I have no doubt, has in mind the competition in the Pacific. Indeed, I think he mentioned it. It appears to be a very unjust thing that the United States of America should regard a trip from New York to Honolulu as being a coasting trip and should take full advantage of all the reservations which are made for coasting trade, but, if we are to make anything like a rejoinder to that, we must bear in mind that we have such a very large interest in foreign trade and that we do expose a very broad flank to attack.
I do not know that the House has thoroughly appreciated these very remarkable figures. Depleted as our shipping undoubtedly is, of the world's international trade 15 per cent. is British inter-Imperial trade, 39 per cent. is between the British Empire and foreign countries, and 46 per cent. is between foreign countries alone. British shipping carries, of this, 90 per cent. of the inter-Imperial trade, 60 per cent. of the trade between the Empire and foreign 443 countries, and 25 per cent. of the trade between foreign countries alone. Indeed, it is a remarkable fact that there are a good many vessels engaged in foreign trade alone which only come home once in four years in order to be re-surveyed by Lloyds for their classification to be maintained. We have to be very careful that we do not do anything, by way of retaliation, or fiscal war, or discrimination of a damaging character, which would do more harm than good, but that is only an additional reason for examining, with great care and rapidity, the very problems with which we are faced. I can tell my right hon. Friend and those who, like himself, are mainly interested in the liner service, that we are taking into account the disabilities under which they labour and that we shall, if necessary, take steps to see that they get fair play at all events within our inter-Imperial trade.
I regret on many grounds that it has not been possible to cover more of this subject in the course of the Debate. It is only due to the luck of the ballot that my hon. Friend was able to raise it today, but we were bound to make a statement sooner or later on the subject, and I welcome this opportunity. I welcome
§ it all the more because we are dealing, not only with a trade, but with a national subject. Other countries—and I think it as well that they should know what our mind is—have a full right to pursue the shipping policy that they think best suited to their needs, though we may have just cause for complaint when action is taken against the spirit, if not against the letter, of our commercial treaties. But we may not always be able to give others privileges which they deny to us. We have been forced to the use of tariffs to protect certain other industries, and we may be forced, reluctantly, to take measures to safeguard our shipping. It would mean a change in the policy which we have tried for so long to maintain, and we should only do it under the stress of necessity, but if we do it, we shall do it unflinchingly. To us, an island people dependent in peace and war on sea communications, an adequate mercantile marine is the first necessity of our existence, and we have no intention of allowing its existence to be imperilled.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 221; Noes, 34.445
|Division No. 23.]||AYES.||[7.27 p.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Clarke, Frank||Gauit, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Clarry, Reginald George||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)|
|Albery, Irving James||Clayton, Sir Christopher||Gibson, Charles Granville|
|Alexander, Sir William||Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Conant, R. J. E.||Gledhill, Gilbert|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cook, Thomas A.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Crooke, J. Smedley||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Cross, R. H.||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Crossley, A. C.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Grimston, R. V.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Curry, A. C.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Denville, Alfred||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Dickie, John P.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Harbord, Arthur|
|Blindell, James||Duggan, Hubert John||Hartland, George A.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Headlam, Lieut.-col. Cuthbert M.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Eimley, Viscount||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Hornby, Frank|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Home. Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Burnett, John George||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon.Sir, A. (Birm.,W.)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.|
|Chapman, Col, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Munro, Patrick||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Nall, Sir Joseph||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Stanley Lord (Lancaster. Fylde)|
|Knight, Holford||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Stones, James|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Owen, Major Goronwy||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Lees-Jones, John||Pearson, William G.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Levy, Thomas||Panny, Sir George||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Llewellin, Major John J.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Petherick, M.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)||Templeton, William P.|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'Pt'n, Bliston)||Thompson, Luke|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Pike, Cecil F.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hn. J. R. (Seaham)||Potter, John||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Preston, Sir Walter Rueben||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Train, John|
|McKeag, William||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Tree, Ronald|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Ray, Sir William||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Rea, Walter Russell||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Magnay, Thomas||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||White, Henry Graham|
|Mander, Geoffrey le, M.||Renwick, Major Gustay A.||Whyte, Jardlne Bell|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Rickards, George William||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Robinson, John Roland||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Withers, Sir John James|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Womersley, Walter James|
|Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Moore-Brabazon. Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Dr. Leech and Mr. Storey.|
|Morrison, William Shephard||Smith, Sir J. Walker (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Buchanan, George||Kirkwood, David||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Logan, David Gilbert||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Willlams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilmot, John|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Mr. John and Mr. Groves.|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Lieut-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN rose—
§ It being after Half-past Seven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.