HC Deb 23 November 1933 vol 283 cc251-2
38. Mr. BOSSOM

asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been drawn to the number of British vessels that are being sold to foreigners at break-up prices and are used by them to brings cargoes to Great Britain at low rates; and whether, in view of the extent of unemployment among British seamen and in British shipyards, he will consider either prohibiting such sales or adopting whatever fiscal measures are necessary to overcome this kind of competition?


My hon. Friend is doubtless aware that many considerations enter into this problem of the sale of ships to foreigners, and he can be assured that it is constantly receiving the attention of His Majesty's Government.


Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House if he has made any attempt to deal with the unemployment that has resulted from the sale of these ships?


Is it not the case that a report has been submitted by a committee set up to consider a scheme whereby these ships should not be sold abroad, and will the right hon. Gentleman inform the House if he is prepared to look into the matter and to ask that committee to reassemble and give reconsideration to the question?


The report of the Obsolete Tonnage Committee was delivered, I think, in 1931. Since then there have been no new facts to alter the conclusions that were arrived at by that committee.


Is it not the case that many of the ships, since that committee sat, are still being used by foreigners to compete with British shipping, with cheap crews that displace British seamen


I am not sure about the deduction drawn by the hon. Gentleman, but it is certainly true that some ships that have been sold from the British Flag are being run by foreigners. That is one of the things that is still being considered.


Is there not the same danger, with regard to the sale of these scrapped ships as has already arisen in the case of the sale at scrap prices of looms that have been put up in Japan and are now competing with Lancashire? Does not exactly the same principle arise?


I am afraid that the cases are not on all fours. I cannot argue the subject at Question Time, but I would point out that there are two sides to this question of the sale of ships, especially when we consider the necessity for putting shipping companies in funds with which to build new ships in British yards.