HC Deb 04 December 1934 vol 295 cc1415-539

Considered in Committee, under Standing Order No. 69.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it is expedient,—

(1) For the purpose of helping the owners of vessels registered in the United Kingdom to compete with foreign shipping in receipt of subsidies from foreign Governments, to authorise the Board of Trade upon recommendations made by an advisory committee to pay subsidies in respect of tramp voyages or parts of tramp voyages carried out in the year nineteen hundred and thirty-five, and to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of sums not exceeding in the aggregate two million pounds for the purpose of paying such subsidies and any expenses incurred by or on behalf of the Board of Trade in connection therewith:

Provided that—

  1. (a) such subsidies shall he payable only in respect of voyages, or parts of voyages, carried out by vessels to which this Resolution applies, being vessels registered in the United Kingdom which have been British ships since the first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-four or, in the case of vessels completed after that date, since they were completed, and being, in the case of vessels completed after that date, vessels which were built in the United Kingdom;
  2. (b) no such subsidy shall be payable in respect of any voyage, or part of a voyage, if in the opinion of the said advisory committee the voyage was undertaken without due regard to the necessity for co-operation between the owners of British vessels in furthering the purpose for which such subsidies are authorised by this Resolution;

(2) To provide—

  1. (a) for the making, within two years after the passing of any Act for giving effect to this Resolution, to persons qualified under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, to own British ships, of advances not exceeding in all ten million pounds out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom for the purpose of enabling them to build or modernise vessels in accordance with proposals approved by the Board of Trade, so, however, that no such proposals shall be so approved unless the proposals provide—
    1. (i) for the building or modernisation of vessels to which this Resolution applies (not being vessels constructed or adapted to carry more than twelve passengers) which are, were, or will be, as the case may be, employed in the carriage of commercial cargoes and not employed mainly in voyages between ports 1416 within the United Kingdom, Irish Free State, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands, or in maintaining regular services between such ports and ports in the continent of Europe between the River Elbe and Brest inclusive;
    2. (ii) for the demolition of such vessels as aforesaid in the proportion of two gross tons to be demolished for every gross ton of the vessels to be built, and of one gross ton to be demolished for every gross ton of the vessels to be modernised;
    3. (iii) that the vessels to be demolished will not, without the consent of the Board of Trade, be demolished outside the United Kingdom, and that the vessels to be built or modernised will be built or modernised in Great Britain;
  2. (b) for enabling the Treasury to borrow under Section one of the War Loan Act, 1919, for the purpose of providing for such advances;
  3. (c) for the application to the redemption of debt of sums received by way of interest on or repayment of such advances.

(3) To provide for the repeal of Section eighteen of the Economy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1926.

(4) To provide for other matters connected with the matters aforesaid. The vessels to which this Resolution applies are all ships which are neither fishing vessels nor constructed or adapted for the carriage of liquid cargoes in bulk nor so constructed or adapted that the space insulated for the carriage of special cargoes is in excess either of fifty thousand cubic feet or of ten per cent. of the total space available for cargo; and in this. Resolution the expression "tramp voyage" means a voyage in the course of which all the cargo carried is carried under charter party, hut does not include any voyage during any part of which more than twelve passengers are carried."—(Kin g's Recommendation Signified.)—[Mr. Runciman.]

3.16 p.m.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

In considering this question, the House is not dealing with a new subject, for negotiations and discussions have been proceeding now for very nearly a year since the situation of British Shipping was laid bare. In July last I made a statement to the House of the position of affairs as it then stood, and I described roughly the scheme which the Government were then about to discuss with the shipping interests concerned. So far as its financial importance went, I made it clear at the time that the Government would not go beyond the subsidy of £2,000,000 for 1935, but that they were prepared, in another aspect of the shipping problem, to enter into guarantees of amounts of the sum total of about £15,000,000. There have been some changes since July last as a result of discussions which have taken place at the Board of Trade, with the technical advisers of the Board of Trade as well as the shipping interests themselves, and those changes I might very briefly sum up in order that the Committee might know how we now stand.

There has been no change in the situation since the statement on the 3rd July. It remains what it was then, except, I regret to say, that the financial strength of the tramp companies has been steadily sapped. There has been no material change for the better in the freight market, and it is apparent that unless steps are taken, and taken promptly, it will be impossible for a large number of these concerns to carry on and keep their vessels running in their various trades. What improvement there has been in freights has been quite sporadic. I put it down to the fact that the shipowners, in carrying through their negotiations on the markets, both at home and abroad, have been assured of the support which we are now deciding to give them, and that that has undoubtedly infused a more cheerful spirit into the industry. One of the objects which we had in view was to place our shipowners in a position of equality with foreign shipowners, that indeed they should be able to compete on equal terms, or approximately equal terms, with foreign tramp shipping which was receiving subsidised assistance from its Governments, and the reason why we restricted our support to the tramp vessels was because of the peculiar position in which they have grown up, the benefit they have proved to the trade of the country as a whole, and the essential part which they have played in our system of national defence.

We have come to the conclusion that at the present time there is no special reason why we should give assistance to tankers or to passenger liners and to certain other smaller sections of shipping. The tankers have their own arrangements, which have been operated entirely by themselves and have on the whole worked satisfactorily. Passenger liners are all members of conferences for the regulation of traffic all over the world, and they also are able, except in certain cases, to look after themselves. Where, however, a definite attack has been made on the shipping services on some of the Imperial routes and there appears to be artificial assistance given, sometimes in very large degree, to competitors of British shipping companies who run on the Imperial routes and are in truth the links of Empire, we announced in July, and I can repeat now, that if each case is made out to us on its merits we are prepared to consider them separately.

Coasting vessels, which are not included in the scheme, are in a special position. Their chief competitors are not vessels flying foreign flags. They have no subsidised competitors, so far as I know, anywhere round the coast of the United Kingdom. Their chief competitors are road and rail. The trouble between the coasting shipowners and the railway companies is of old standing, and at the present time it would be a mistake in the view of the Government to reopen the question of competition between road and rail and coasting shipping, and there is no necessity for us to take any special steps. If they had been subjected to foreign competition which was subsidised, whether in large or small degree, it would of course have been necessary for us to consider their position, but, on the whole, we have come to the conclusion that as the amount of money available for the purpose of a subsidy is circumscribed it would be as well for us to restrict our operations to tramps or vessels carrying tramp cargoes under tramp conditions.

The latter class of British shipping covers directly or indirectly some of the sections of British cargo liners, and, as the House would wish to know the distinction between tramps and British cargo liners, I had better describe their position. They also, like passenger vessels, are members in nearly every case of conferences. These conferences, on the whole, work for the benefit not only of the shipping concerned, but of the merchant houses, and they have been commended on both accounts by the Imperial Shipping Committee presided over by Sir Raiford Mackinder. As a result, it has been possible for a generation for this section of the British shipping industry to be regulated to the advantage. of both carriers and the merchants whose goods are carried. There is, however, continuous competition between the various sections of British shipping. The tramps in most trades have competed, sometimes successfully, and sometimes unsuccessfully, against cargo liners. Cargo and passenger liners are not in completely watertight compartments, and it is often difficult to say where one class begins and another ends.

One thing is clear, however, and that is that the problem which we were considering early in the year, the intensity of which has increased as the months go by, is not concerned primarily with cargo liners, which have their own means of dealing with their problems, but with tramps. Tramps have no conferences; they compete in the open market; they do what they can to hold their own against all the world, and they have unfortunately, owing to the immense superfluity of tonnage and the shrinkage of international trade, found it impossible to make ends meet in any direction throughout the world, as far as I know, in the last 12 months. It would no doubt have been a good thing from the point of view of cargo liners if we had been able to give assistance to them in the same way as we are giving it to tramps. That, however, cannot be done. Their trades are different, and their cargoes are dealt with in different ways; cargo liners run on regular routes, sometimes to time-tables; and although some may be tramps going out and liners coming back, or liners going out and tramps coming back, the fact remains that the nature of the business is so different as to make it inadvisable to attempt to deal with them on exactly the same footing.

So far as we can deal with the situation by the better regulation of the shipping industry itself, I suggest that we are going in the right direction in the interest not only of the tramps but of the cargo liners. The way in which the subsidy will be worked necessitates getting to the full the technical advice we can obtain, and that advice ought to and will cover not only the case of tramps, but of cargo liners. In both the Administrative Committee and the Statutory Committee which are proposed under the scheme in the White Paper, it will be seen that we have provided for the representation of the cargo liners. If they had no part or parcel indirectly in the Government's scheme there would be little or no necessity for their special position being provided for.

We have throughout made it clear in our discussions with the tramp owners and those who represented them that we could only embark on this kind of assistance provided the industry itself took steps to organise the competition within its own limits, and that we were not prepared to advise the granting of money from the Exchequer to an industry which was not taking steps to regulate its internal competition. This applies, of course, particularly to competition between tramps themselves and cargo liners. One advantage which I hope the cargo liners will get out of this scheme when it is working to the full is that the competition which in the past has been regarded as most serious by placing a tramp vessel in competition very often at cut rates with cargo liners carrying goods on the berth will be brought to an end. Competition should be regulated and put in such a form under the advice of the Administrative Committee as will enable us to fulfil one of the objects we have in view, namely, the granting of this financial assistance to the industry without dissipating its advantages, and making it accrue in the first instance to tramp shipping as a whole.

I cannot at this stage do better than point out that we have, throughout the whole of these discussions, had the full advantage of some of the best advice we could get in the ship-owning world. I am glad to say that in the course of these very prolonged discussions and examinations we have had at our command all the information which could be given not only by the shipping organisations but by individual shipowners of pre-eminence, and I would like to say how much the Government are indebted to Sir Vernon Thomson for the part he has played throughout. Those who knew him in the Ministry of Shipping, as my right hon. Friend opposite did, can well believe that we could not have selected a better negotiator, and he has had associated with him some of the most representative of our tramp shipowners. We have also been able to confer on the highly technical questions involved with the representatives of the cargo liners, who have their headquarters in London and in Liverpool. It was hardly likely that in an industry of this sort, with so many different interests, many of them clashing, we should obtain one opinion covering the whole industry. I never thought that possible, and never suggested to the House that that could be done, but we have succeeded in reaching a point where the tramp interests have collaborated with us to the full in the production of this scheme. They have been able to give us advice which in nearly every case we have been able to adopt, and I am glad to say that the scheme now before the House will be worked by them, in so far as their cooperation is necessary, with the fullest desire to make it run to the full advantage not only of their section of British shipping but of British shipping as a whole.

It was with the desire to hold together the whole of British shipping interests that we had to lay down conditions in the first instance which, I know, appeared to many of the tramp shipowners to be rather severe, but I am glad to say they have seen their way over or round or through a good many of those difficulties, and the time spent in the discussion of them has been to the general advantage. The three conditions that we regarded as being of the first importance were, first, that there should be no dissipation of these advantages, that they should not be allowed to slip through the fingers of the industry and go to the benefit of other industries; secondly, that there should be a greater employment of British ships and of British steamers at the expense of foreign subsidised shipping; and, thirdly, that the shipowners should themselves, within their own organisation, particularly the International Shipping Conference, press for an adjustment of the supply of world tonnage.

The International Shipping Conference has met from time to time, sometimes after longer intervals and sometimes shorter. It consists of the trade representatives of the shipping industry in all the countries of the world, and it has been presided over in the past by a. number of distinguished shipowners, many of whom, I am pleased to say, will be available in the forthcoming discussions. While we have been negotiating here at home with the object of securing a. water-tight, or comparatively water-tight scheme, I am glad to say that negotiations have been passing between the shipping interests in this country and those in Europe and in the United States of America. As a result of these negotiations I trust that by the middle of January a preliminary meeting of those who will be arranging the international agenda will be held in London, and that later—probably some weeks later, but not far remote—there will be a conference of the whole of the shipowners themselves working on this agreed agenda, a meeting that will probably be held in Berlin.

If we can obtain anything like an adjustment of the supply of tonnage for the carriage of world goods, and particularly bulk cargoes, there is no doubt whatever that we shall have broken the back of one of the most difficult economic problems with which the world has been faced, for hon. Members ought to remember that, although the tonnage of the world is enormously in excess of what it was in 1913, the amount of stuff to be carried is far less than in 1929, which was the best year since the War. The result has been that during the whole of the last five or six years it has been impossible to keep shipping fully employed at home. There has been an immense number of ships laid up in the various ports and anchorages of the world, and whenever there has been the least signs of an improvement in the traffic, of a larger amount of stuff to be carried, these laid-up vessels have come away from their anchorages and have been set to work, and very often they were in excess of the actual requirements of the moment. As long as that went on there was, of course, no hope for British or any other shipping throughout the world, but I am glad to say that there has been a great deal of approximation of views in this country and abroad, and we have all gradually reached the view, which I hope is likely to take shape in a unified policy later, that unless we can make the available tonnage correspond to the amount of international traffic there certainly can be no hope for the immediate future. How far can this be done? It we were merely to restrict the amount of shipping under our own flag, it would mean that we should be placing our own shipping interests and our own seafaring community under an unfair disability. If there is to be a reduction of laid-up ships, or a withdrawal from the markets of surplus tonnage, it must be on an international basis. It would never do for us to remain as the one flag that was surrendering a considerable portion of our share and for foreign countries to be able to take our place. We must be assured that the reduction shall be universal.

It was with that consideration in mind that what used to be called the Baltic and White Sea Conference made some proposals at the beginning of the year. They were proposals to which we were not entirely opposed, and we were prepared to discuss them. Beyond the members of the Baltic and White Sea Conference there has been no indication of any large section of British shipping or foreign shipping being prepared to regulate its supply of shipping. What we would desire now, if this international conference is effective, is that both European and American interests should combine to bring the amount of tonnage which is being traded within the limits of the world's demand.

The way in which the subsidy scheme would be worked has, I think, been stated in some detail in the White Paper. Indeed, I do not know that in recent times, there has been any case in which fuller details have been given of the way in which Government Departments and interests outside were hoping to work together. The one thing we had in mind, naturally, was the necessity of avoiding errors in dealing with the freight markets themselves. They really dominate the situation. Unless there is a recovery in the freight markets it is quite clear that we shall not be able to regain that prosperity for British shipping on which so many other things hang. We have, therefore, always kept that in mind throughout our discussions with the shipowners, and it should be one of the first considerations to be borne in mind by the Committee, that whatever destroys and undermines the freight markets must, of necessity, be detrimental, in the first place, to British shipping. At the same time what has been devised for them and what I think they will probably be able to operate is a method by which the cooperation not only of our own different sections of shipping but of foreign shipping as well will be able to contribute to the scheme. I do not know that I need say more on the general working of the scheme with which the Department will keep in touch.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will do his best to reply to questions and to give information to the Committee, but I must say something about another aspect of our proposals which was briefly discussed last July and which aroused a good deal of interest all over the country. I mean the proposal that we should scrap a certain amount of our tonnage and replace it with new tonnage to be built in this country. The proposal to scrap fits in with the general object which I have described to the House. We wish to reduce the amount of tonnage which can hang over the freight market and destroy whatever vitality it may have. At the same time we do not want to lower the level of quality of the British Mercantile Marine, and it would be a very foolish thing to pursue the object of improving its economic position and at the same time to lower its general level of equipment, speed and safety. We, therefore, proposed last July that for every three tons a shipowner or shipping company might sell for scrap or breaking up, we would provide facilities for the financing of one ton to take its place; or, to put it in a simpler way, for every three vessels that were broken up we would be prepared to give assistance for the building of one.

We have found, during the months that have elapsed, that there were very few shipowners who at that stage were able or willing to make such arrangements for the future as we have in mind. I am glad to say that since the publication of our new terms there appears to be an increasing demand for new ships, and it is of the first importance to our shipbuilding centres that we should see that it is not discouraged. It is not only a matter of purely local interest but of national importance. One of the things which have given us great concern has been the diminution in the number of skilled men, particularly young skilled men, who are the most valuable asset to this or any other industry. Under our proposals, as they have been revised as the result of our experience, we have made two modifications. The first, in paragraph 9 of Section 1 of the Memorandum, is that instead of three for one we propose two for one; the second modification is that we are prepared to give assistance for the modernisation of ships which are already afloat on the basis of one for one. There is a considerable number of old hulls which by an improvement in machinery might provide us with ample competing power, and would enable us to carry the world's goods on the most economical basis possible.


Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us a little more about what he means by modernisation?


Certainly, I will be very glad to tell my right hon. Friend. May I give a very simple illustration? It used to be the custom for the cheapest tramp vessels to be built without feed heaters for the water which has to be boiled for the propulsion of the ship. The improvement in design of steam engines has been such, particularly during the last six or seven years, that by the addition of feed heaters and one or two other auxiliaries of that kind it is possible with a lower fuel consumption to keep up the full pressure of steam, and in many cases it has been found by experience to increase the speed. That is part of an advantage of a completely modern ship and of utilising old hulls for this purpose. The advantage which comes to the industry and to the skilled class as a whole is found in the fact that there is much more highly skilled labour used in the making of machinery and of auxiliary machinery than in the construction of the hulls.

I have given a rough outline of the scheme as it has now been revised. I would like to add one simple conclusion. It is impossible for us to do more than to give an undertaking that this scheme shall be in operation for 12 months. We shall learn a great deal by experience during the next 12 months. Even the most skilful and far-sighted shipbuilders, engineers and shipowners will discover a good deal under this scheme that they did not already know. We want to take full advantage of that. We therefore provide that this scheme shall be in force for 12 months in the first instance; if it be found to be in the national interest to extend it for a further period it will be very easy for the House to express that view and to give effect to its decision.

We have dealt with only one aspect of the shipping problem. It was quite clear to us that unless British tramp shipping could be put on a paying basis again, not only would our vessels continue to be laid up because they could not make ends meet, but our men would continue to walk the streets. The number of unemployed British seamen is very large. The one thing that can give them relief is a renewal of employment, not only of the men but of the ships in which they sail. If we can do that under these influences and organisation, and with the full co-operation of all the British shipping interests and others who are concerned, and can provide for the full employment of a limited number of our vessels and see that the rest are dealt with justly and fairly in the world's supply of shipping, we shall have made a. great step in advance. It is in the hope that the House will support us in this, and thereby bring benefit not to one section or one district but to the country as a whole, that we put forward our proposal.


On the question of date, would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how 1st January, 1934, was arrived at to allow vessels to qualify for the subsidy? One understands that ships which previously had sailed under the foreign flag came back to British shipping as soon as the Government's subsidy policy was announced, but, in view of the fact that the decision of the House was not announced until July last, how was the date 1st January, 1934, decided upon?


One is bound to admit that 1st January, 1934, is an arbitrary date. One of the risks was that some shipping companies had been running vessels, for their own particular purposes and sometimes for good purposes, but not always for good purposes. Some companies have been running under a foreign flag to take what advantage they could out of that before we started our scheme, and then when we started our scheme they would come under it and take full advantage of the subsidy. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asks, "Why go back to 1st January?" Even so far back as 1st January a scheme of this kind was under discussion and we have already seen indications of a flow back from the foreign flag to the British flag. Those who chose to go over to the foreign flag had better stay there.

3.51 p.m.


I do not know any such mild-mannered revolutionary as the right hon. Gentleman. He comes down to the Committee, and, in those smooth accents of his, works in another little bit of the revolution in which he has played such a mighty part in the last three years. To-day, on the whole, I think he has excelled himself. It must have been very difficult for him, with his particular experience, to have been a member of a Government that spent its time limiting the cargoes carried by British ships, and then to come to the House and say, "The shipping industry is in a very serious position, and we must now pass round the hat." This is part and parcel of the Government's policy of doles for all except the poor. We find industry after industry going on the dole; hardly a week goes by without some poor afflicted industry limping up to the Board of Trade or the Ministry of Agriculture and saying, "Kind Sir, what about a million pounds?"

We have now arrived at a further stage in this rake's progress of the Government on the question of subsidies, and the line has been taken, perhaps deliberately, of subsidising incompetence and inefficiency. The Government, while spurning the idea of any kind of dole or public assistance to the unemployed, gladly shovels out millions of pounds to large industries in this country, many of whom are in the sad plight in which they are, not entirely, but very largely, because of their own incompetence. The Government have adopted, as a definite policy, the policy of scarcity and high prices. They do not believe in abundance and low prices; they believe in the policy of raising no hogs. I wish the President of the Board of Trade would circulate as a White Paper a letter which appeared in an American paper on the policy of raising no hogs. It has been reprinted in this country. The story is that of a person who, because he did not raise hogs, got some money from the Government. Therefore, if he had not raised twice as many, he could have got twice as much. It is obviously a very easy way of raising money not to raise hogs. This man wrote to the newspapers and asked for advice as to the best kind of land on which not to raise hogs.

The right hon. Gentleman, with what he calls the adjustment of the shipping industry in the world, is now coming to some arrangement as to the best kind of shipyards in which not to build ships which will not be wanted for the cargoes which are not there. This policy of not raising hogs has raised the present Government to a pinnacle never achieved by any previous Government in this country. It is a policy of combined scarcity and high prices, and, of course, its only effect has been to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know, and it is not for me to inquire, what are his personal relations with the Minister of Agriculture, but we have the Minister of Agriculture engaged in raising no hogs and providing no cargoes for British ships so far as he can do it, and then, because of the sad plight to which the shipping industry has been reduced in the last few years, and more especially in the last three years as a result of the Government's deliberate policy of trying to restrict trade, the right hon. Gentleman has to come to beg for money and beg for power to give guarantees to the shipping industry.

We are arriving at a most extraordinary position. There was a passage in one of Sydney Smith's works about how, towards the end of the eighteenth century, children were born into a taxed country, ate taxed food, wore taxed clothes, and, after having passed their lives being taxed every time they turned, were finally taken to the graveyard, and there a taxed tombstone rested upon them. That is the position in which British industry is now finding itself. We see subsidised industry after subsidised industry, all of them living on each other, all of them pursuing the policy of raising no hogs. Now we are told, in a paper not too favourable to the Government and not too favourable to my hon. Friends, the "Sunday Express," that it is possible to make money by raising no hops. If you do not raise hops, you make money. If farmers do not raise pigs, and therefore the railways have not to carry them to market, the railways make money out of carrying no pigs to market. Now the tramp shipping industry is in a very serious condition, and, in order to help it carry the small amount of cargo which it is carrying nowadays, we are to provide it with £2,000,000 which it ought to get for itself by carrying the cargo that is not there because this Government has been in office for three years. It is a very serious situation.

The trouble with this disease of "sub-sidisitis" is this: The tramp shipping section of the industry is now going to be comforted by this large "dollop" of £2,000,000 which the right hon. Gentleman is going to place in its lap; but there are other sections of the industry which claim that they are equally important and equally affected by the sad condition of trade, and which are asking, perfectly naturally, where do they come in? Indeed, as no doubt the right hon. Gentleman remembers, there was a demand in July, when it was suggested that the tramp shipping section of the industry should receive some assistance. It was then said that to subsidise one section of the British Mercantile Marine would be a crime against the others, and, indeed, a crime against the nation's interest. This afternoon, in the very careful words of the right hon. Gentleman, we have had an attempt to reply to the cargo liner owners. I see in the "Financial News" this morning—a newspaper which I do not read as a rule for political information—the following: No sooner has a subsidy been definitely granted to the British tramp shipping industry than the British cargo liners have come forward in their turn with demands for a subsidy. A deputation of cargo liner owners visited the Board of Trade last Thursday. Their demands were refused by Mr. Runciman, at any rate for the time being. Mr. Runciman hinted, however, that if in six months' time it could be shown that the subsidy granted to the tramp owners was operating to the detriment of the liners, some compensation might be paid. This has not satisfied the liner owners. A delegation accordingly visited the House of Commons last night, and put the case for the liners before the Parliamentary Shipping Committee of both Houses. I understand that complete sympathy with the liners was expressed by the Committee. In this debate to-day we shall have Members of that Committee, of which none of my hon. Friends, I believe, are members, pressing that the cargo liners are as much in need of assistance as the tramp vessels. Then what about the liners? Will they not come and ask for more? And so this snowball will go on, until it is so large that you will not be able to see the right hon. Gentleman for the snowball. The President of the Board of Trade made no real defence of his pro- posals. I think I might have put up, in all humility, a better defence myself. The right hon. Gentleman knows that his strong card is not to try to defend this on the grounds he has put forward.

The scheme falls into two parts. Let me refer first to the £2,000,000 dole which we are to provide for the tramp shipowners. Through the greater part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he never referred to the seamen once.


I referred again and again to the British seafaring class, and I classed them along with others who are interested in the industry.


My time-table shows that for 20 minutes the British seafaring class was never mentioned. This can be checked in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow morning. It is quite true that towards the end of his speech we got a final justification of the British seafaring class. I said "through the greater part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech." To the right hon. Gentleman the shipowners and the shipping industry are synonomous terms. They are not so to us, and in our view the £2,000,000 subsidy to the shipowners does not mean employment for British seafarers. It may mean a little more employment for more of the non-domiciled seamen, the coloured seamen who are now being employed on many British ships. I hope that hon. Members who represent port constituencies will remember that the £2,000,000 dole is for the shipowners, and not for shipbuilding. It is £2,000,000 for them in order to enable them to compete the better, and get more cargo. For whom? For the 50,000 alien seamen who are employed on British ships, or for the 40,000 British seamen who are out of work to-day? There is no mention of that in the White Paper or in the Financial Resolution There is no mention of it, I imagine, in the draft of the Bill which will presently come before the House for Second Reading.

Our claim to-day is especially on behalf of the officers and seamen of our mercantile marine, and especially those engaged in the tramp shipping section of the industry. Nobody is going to suggest that their wages are extravagant. It has been said that officers to-day receiving the National Maritime Board standard of wages are, under duress, having to pay part of those wages back to their employers. We do know that although the National Maritime Board does establish rates of wages, it is not every shipowner who pays them. There are some who can find means of evading those obligations. There are those who resort to meaner tactics, and change their flag for purposes of trade. Here is one of the serious problems which ought to be pressed upon the House if we are to spend all this £2,000,000, and the prospect of £10,000,000.

Those for whom I speak to-day in the House—and I speak for my colleagues here, and on behalf of the trade unions representing seamen—assert that during the last few years conditions on our ships have become worse. We assert that on deck able-bodied seamen are to-day being replaced by apprentices. We assert that there are boys going as apprentices who will never become officers, who are blind-alley boys with no possible future before them. We assert that officers are now clamouring and begging for jobs as able-bodied seamen. We say that the conditions of many are such to-day that ships go out in peril not properly staffed in the stokeholds, that men are being shamefully overworked, that deck hands—even officers—on some boats running under the British flag have to go into the bunkers to help trim the coal to keep a head of steam, and neglect their responsibilities as deck hands. We assert that this is so, and we say that no Government ought to dream of giving £2,000,000 to an industry which is going to climb back to profit on £2,000,000 as long as conditions of that kind exist. I have not time to relate the position with regard to the hours of work of seamen, or even the hours of work in the stokehold, which it is perhaps possible to regulate better than in some cases. I have not time to go into the unsatisfactory dietary of thousands and thousands of our merchant seamen, so unsuitably conceived that it gives people roast beef and Yorkshire pudding in the Tropics, and salads when working their way round Cape Horn.

Colonel ROPNER

The right hon. Gentleman says that he has not got time to do this, that and the other, but he is making some very grave charges against shipowners of this country, and I ask him whether he has got time to give one or two individual cases of the sort of thing about which he is talking.


Let me say that I am making no charges which I am prepared to withdraw. Before this Bill is over, if hon. Members want chapter and verse for individual cases, they shall have them until they are sick of hearing them. I am not making a general charge against shipowners of this country, but I am saying that these conditions obtain, unfortunately only too frequently, and at the proper time I shall be able to substantiate what I say.


I can give chapter and verse now.


We have not invented this as a fairy story. Then, as regards the accommodation of seamen on tramp steamers, I should say that in the vast majority of cases it is a national scandal. My right hon. Friend reminds me that a convict gets better accommodation than the average seaman on a tramp ship. The effect on the health of these seamen is bound to be adverse. I will not deal with that. No doubt before we have finished with this Resolution and the Bill, my right hon. Friend may have something to say about it.

Then we come to the employment of alien seamen. I say that with 40,000 white British seamen unemployed in this country to-day, we ought to pay no subsidy to ship-owners who are prepared to give preferential employment to non-domiciled seamen. There is no reference to this in the Financial Resolution, nor, presumably will there be in the Bill. But within the last few years the number—and we shall be able to give illustrations if hon. Members press us—of Chinese, Spaniards, Czechoslovakians, Yugoslavians, Arabs and men of many nationalities in British ships has increased. I hope the Committee will remember that 40,000 British seamen are unemployed while there are I am told, 50,000 other seamen employed on British ships. One very important company trading out East during the past three years has discharged over 700 white British sailors, firemen and catering ratings, and replaced them by Chinamen. That company has over 70 vessels, only two of which carry complete white crews. If I am challenged, I will give the name of the firm.

We have had during the last few years the sale of British ships to foreign flags, only to create foreign competition with the British ships which still remain under the British flag. We also have the transfer of ships to alien flags still virtually under British ownership in order to avoid British conditions and British standards of wages. There are British-owned ships now carrying crews drawn from almost every race and every country in the globe. We enter an emphatic protest against the expenditure of £2,000,000 on an industry where conditions such as these exist today. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking at Cardiff in April, said he would say quite plainly—it was not so plain before he got to the end of it—that, if the Government were going to assist, he would not say by way of subsidies because much might be said against them, but if the Government were going to assist, that assistance should not be only for the shipowners but also for the officers, the engineers and the crew. In the House of Commons in July—it is true that he referred to our seafaring classes—in answer to a supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Lawson) he said: The object that the Government have in view is to increase the means of those who formerly used to be employed in British ships and British shipyards."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1934; col. 1726, Vol. 291.] The astonishing thing to us is that during the whole of this time the right hon. Gentleman has had no consultation with anyone but shipowners. He has told us that they have the best advice in the shipowning world. We make this perfectly just claim, that labour is an essential part of every industry. We say that we are concerned with more than labour conditions. We say that we are even concerned with subsidies. We say that to-day no Government has the right to make up its mind after merely consulting the element that owns the capital, ignoring the people whose lives are devoted to that industry by their labour. It would have been an advantage if the right hon. Gentleman had consulted the leaders of organised labour in the shipping industry. We are not without brains in these industries on the labour side. We have people who have a contribution to make to the solution of the shipping problem. Their attitude of mind, their outlook and their experience may be different from that of the employers and the shipowners, but we regard it as a very serious dereliction of duty on the part of the right hon. Gentleman that in concocting this scheme he sat behind closed doors with the shipowners never thinking for a moment about the conditions of labour and without consulting the scores of thousands of people who are employed in the industry and whose lives are dependent on its success and prosperity.

Have the Government considered the implication of this dole to shipowners? Is it to be used to permit them to employ sweated alien labour to the exclusion of British officers and seamen? If it is, we ought to know to-day. If there be any question as to the truth of what I have said, let me offer this challenge to the Government. I say that the conditions of employment aboard ship are a disgrace to our national life. I say that our legislation dealing with the conditions on ships is hopelessly out of date. Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an inquiry into the conditions of employment in the mercantile marine, or if he likes into the tramp section of the industry? If he would do that, we might be prepared to be a little more kindly in our attitude towards this Resolution and the Bill.

As to the second part, the scrapping of old tonnage and the building of new, we have no objection in principle to that proposal, but I am bound to say we have watched the process of rationalisation in industry after industry, and it is my friends in the trade union movement who have to pay for that advance in increasing unemployment. New shipping means larger and more efficient ships, better equipment for loading and unloading, swifter ships and more unemployment for seamen. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman consult my trade union friends about this? He would not have found that they were hostile to the idea of scrapping old tonnage and building new ships, but, when a change takes place that is going to affect the lives, the employment and the future prospects of people, the people affected have a right to be consulted, and on Part II of this scheme the right hon. Gentleman would have been better advised to consult my friends who represent the seamen. He would have found no bitter hostility, he would have found no captious criticism, but he would have found a desire on the part of the seamen to make shipping prosperous, and perhaps he, as a shipowner, might have learned the point of view of the men on deck and the men below deck who run the ships.

It seems to us that it is not unreasonable, if the Government are coming to the assistance of an industry, whether by direct money grants or by assisting the improvement of its organisation, that they should attach certain conditions. In the Road Traffic Act and the Road and Rail Act it is a condition of a licence on the road that reasonable wages are paid. When the beet-sugar subsidy was brought into being it was a condition of the receipt of the subsidy that the wages paid should conform to standards set by the Industrial Court. Why should not the same apply to the shipping industry? Why should it not be conditional upon British shipowners fulfilling what the House knows in its heart are reasonable conditions for the seamen who work the ships? We should like a specific answer to this question: Are the Government prepared, as a condition of the payment of this subsidy, to require a reasonable wages standard and reasonable conditions of employment for British seamen? Are they prepared to give an undertaking that British seamen shall have priority of employment? If the right hon. Gentleman can give us that pledge, well and good. If he does not, we shall vote against him to-night.

We reserve our right to improve the Bill, but on Second Reading we are entitled to ask what is, after all, a simple, human question the answer to which thousands of our seafarers are awaiting; whether this £2,000,000 is just to fall into the maws of the tramp shipowners, or whether it is going to benefit everybody in the industry, including the seafarers? We have felt bound to put this case as a protest against the way in which the Government have neglected to consider the knowledge and the experience of a very important section of people belonging to one of our vital services, whose lives are not merely dangerous in ordinary times but are more than usually precarious to-day, where unemployment is higher than in almost any other industry in the country. Our complaint is that the representatives of these men have not been heard and their knowledge used and, that if the Government wish to assist the industry, they should have spread their favours to bring a little comfort into the homes and lives of the seafaring population.

4.27 p.m.


We have heard with sympathy the very powerful plea that the right hon. Gentleman has put forward for the consideration of the conditions of employment and work of the personnel of the mercantile marine. The British shipping industry is one of those in which in the past we have taken legitimate pride, and we must all feel that it is in the nature of a tragedy that the Committee should be called upon to consider the granting of a subsidy to this great industry, but we cannot take pride in an industry in which the conditions of employment are any less satisfactory for those engaged in it than they are in any other country in the world. I should like to express the hope and belief that any advantage that accrues to the shipping industry as a whole from the granting of this help to the shipowners should be shared, as far as is possible, by those employed in the working of the industry as a whole. I thought the right hon. Gentleman exaggerated a little when he spoke of the possibility of the British shipowner climbing back to profit on the strength of a subsidy of £2,000,000. I think that would be a view probably more optimistic than anyone in the House would be entitled to take at this moment. I should gather that the result of the subsidy would not be to guarantee a profit to any shipping firm but would probably do a little more than pay depreciation charges. It is interesting to note, that that part of the subsidy granted by the United States to their shipping industry is devoted definitely to improving the remuneration of the crews, and in the recently enacted French subsidy, which I regret to say may have an adverse effect upon our own shipping, there again direction is given that the conditions and wages of the crews shall be taken into account. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman has the sympathy of the whole Committee in expressing the hope that whatever we may do here will be reflected in the conditions of employment of the mercantile marine.

The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not direct his attention to the immediate emergency that is before the House. When we last discussed the matter in July there was general agreement that the condition of British tramp shipping was grave, and the President of the Board of Trade has told us today that the position is no better; in fact, it is worse in so far as the resources of the shipping industry as a whole have become further depleted. There was agreement in the House that it was a matter which they ought to take into account and see if they could provide any scheme for shipping which offered a reasonable probability of giving life to the industry. When it came to the question of the action which should be taken, there was no such agreement.

It was generally agreed that the subsidy was a very dangerous weapon. In this case it involves risks, and there is some doubt as to whether the proposals before the House do, in fact, avoid these risks, and whether they will not encourage serious internal difficulties and competition within the industry itself, and, what is more serious still, whether the subsidy will provoke other countries to further retaliatory methods, which again would have a very adverse effect upon the shipping industry. That is a risk which cannot be dismissed having regard to the sultry atmosphere in which international trade is being conducted today, and which has prevailed since it ceased in large measure to be an arrangement of peaceful transactions for mutual benefit between the citizens of different countries, and became an instrument for carrying out the trade policies of various Governments according to their own inclinations and desires.

It is clear that British industry cannot hope to benefit permanently from a subsidy. There is, indeed, no hope that it can gain anything like its pre-eminence or its share of international trade as long as the general conditions of insanity and anarchy prevail in the conduct of international trade. That, I think, can be stated without any fear of contradiction. His Majesty's Government must take their share of responsibility for the aggravation of that situation which has come about since they joined in hunting with the international pack. It is true that subsidy breeds subsidy, and that the condition of British shipping has been aggravated and accentuated by subsidies which have been given by our own country, and by others. The wholly uneconomic wheat subsidy in France and in some of the other Continental countries has seriously disturbed and diminished the volume of carrying in the grain trade, by our own fatuous, and indefensible on economic grounds, sugar subsidy it is estimated that something like from £300,00 to £400,000 of freightage to British ships has been lost. Therefore, we can only hope that these negotiations of the International Chamber of Shipping, and the other means which the Government may have at their disposal, will lead to a general amelioration of the conditions under which international trade is carried out.

The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, referred to negotiations which were taking place. I was not quite clear to what negotiations he referred. When he addressed the House on this subject in July last he said that he proposed to get into communication at once with certain foreign Governments with regard to the general condition of shipping, but I did not understand this afternoon whether he was referring to negotiations between various bodies of shipowners or to negotiations or communications he had himself had with foreign Governments with regard to the general aspect of the situation. I should be glad to know whether such communications have passed, and whether the atmosphere in that direction is more hopeful than it was last July.

It is almost a humiliating thing for the House of Commons to have to consider the granting of a subsidy to British shipping. Shipowners as a whole are probably, as a body of men, the most reluctant in the whole country to have to come to the Government and ask for help. I am sure that they will be very glad to see the end of it, and to be able to stand upon their own feet once more. It is true that those who are not acquainted with the work of the industry find it very difficult to understand the conduct of shipowners in selling ships indiscriminately in the last few years. They have been providing their competitions with tools almost without cost, and it must have had a very serious and important effect upon the position which they now occupy. I have been looking over the list of the ships which have been sold during the last 12 or 18 months, and I find that they have been sold indiscriminately to the Chinese, the Japanese, the Greeks, the Estonians, and the Latvians. In fact, the only country not in the list appeared to be Switzerland.

It is clear that a subsidy can be no lasting remedy for the plight of British shipping. It can only be justified as a means of survival and as a step to give a breathing space while the Government have time to develop some further policy, by negotiation or by whatever means are open to them, to try and stimulate and create a more favourable atmosphere. I rather regretted to observe during the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke of creating a new situation and adjusting the tonnage of the world supplies, that the whole emphasis was laid upon the reduction of tonnage. There is another way of adjusting tonnage to world trade, and that is to stimulate world trade and open it up. I hope that when the International Chamber of Shipping meets in January, or whatever date it may be, those representing it will take what action they can in their power to represent that side of the question to the Governments of the countries whom they represent.

There are many matters which, when we come to consider the Bill, we shall be anxious to look at and consider in some detail. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the amount of co-operation which he had reached with the various sections of the shipping industry. It is clear that if this scheme is to work fairly smoothly and to avoid serious consequences and difficulties and competition within the industry, which might neutralise any beneficial effect that the subsidy might give, that harmony should prevail throughout the whole of the industry, and that there should be co-operation as complete as possible. A very considerable degree of harmony and cooperation has, as he told us, been secured up to the present time. The very important shipping industries which are centred in the Merseyside have agreed that there should be unanimous agreement within the whole industry on terms. The Liverpool Shipowners' Association passed a resolution during the summer on this matter in which they said that if a Government offer of State aid to ensure survival, were needed, it should be provided in such a way that it would avoid damage to the other sections of British shipping. That resolution was, I believe, adopted by the industry as a whole. It is very important that that attitude should be maintained.


Does it include the workers?


It was not dealing with that point, but with the specific point of whether or not a subsidy, or any assistance of any kind, should be given to any section of the industry. It was therefore with great satisfaction that the shipowners heard the statement of the President of the Board of Trade in July last of the conditions upon which a subsidy should be given, namely, as he reminded us this afternoon, that they should avoid any dissipation of the subsidy in domestic competition, and, further, that it should be used in such a way against foreign subsidised shipping as to be a defensive weapon to be used against offenders, and to be abandoned later when economic conditions prevail. When we come to consider the matter more in detail, this will be one of the points to which we shall have to direct attention.

The scheme as submitted does not appear necessarily to entail observance of either of the two conditions, more particularly the second. We are dealing here with a very real dilemma. It is very difficult for me to understand, and perhaps some hon. Members with a more practical experience of the details of this business may be able to explain this afternoon how the tramp owner or tramp ship can enter into competition to attract foreign trade at present carried in foreign ships without reducing their rates. It is equally difficult to see how they can do that without, at the same time, injuring the cargo liners, which represent a much larger proportion of British shipping. There is no direct indication in the scheme set out in the White Paper that these conditions can be made and will be made effective.

When the time comes we shall ask that the various committees which have been set up shall be given the specific duty of seeing that the subsidy is not, in fact, used for the benefit only of the shippers and with a consequent loss to the various sections of shipping. This should be set out in clear and unmistakable terms, and also it is necessary, if the co-operation of the industry as a whole is to be secured, that the Statutory Committee and the Advisory Tramp Shipping Committee should be so constituted that they will fairly and faithfully represent the industry as a whole. It is difficult to see, with the proposed constitution of the Statutory Committee, how that can be said to be the case. There is no virtue in this particular matter in having a strict numerical representation of either one party or the other. The main point is that it should be representative and of a character which will, in fact, ensure the complete confidence of every section of the trade. That is a matter to which we shall hope to draw attention at a later stage.

I will consider for a moment that part of the scheme which deals with scrapping and building. As any one who represents a shipbuilding constituency and who has an intimate touch with what has been happening to the workers in the shipyards in recent years knows, no scheme which was not manifestly absurd could fail to be received and considered with sympathy. It is from that aspect that I approach this scheme. It is clear that anything which can bring work back into our shipyards and some relief to the workers in those districts is of the greatest importance at the present time. Those who have seen and know the lives of men who have been out of work for months and years, and whose only daily task is that of going in the morning and again in the afternoon to the shipyard gates and who have been turned away again when the gates shut, and have to repeat that day after day, and month after month until hope is gone, know that in time it has very little more meaning to them than the movements of an animal in a cage or a prisoner in his cell. Anything which can bring even temporary relief to that devastating state of things we must receive sympathetically. At the same time, that does not absolve one from the necessity of looking at this scheme in detail to see whether it is, in fact, likely to be the best that can be put forward at the present time.

The scheme takes a somewhat pessimistic view perhaps of the future of British shipping. It is based on the assumed need for the rationalisation of British cargo tonnage and we must assume, seeing that it has been brought forward, that that is the view of the Government. I gathered from the speech of my right hon. Friend in July that the special condition of the British Mercantile Marine was one of the few matters on which we had a distinct advantage over our competitors. We had fewer old ships, and he stated categorically that with regard to liners, cargo liners, tramps and tankers our fleets were still, on the whole, the best in the world. Therefore, on that ground the need for rationalisation is not perhaps as acute as the problem of giving immediate relief to the tramp owners who are suffering so much at the present time.

The scheme is based upon the supposition that there is too much British shiping afloat to-day. What is worse, it contemplates a definite reduction in the percentage of British shipping in the world's sea-carrying trade and a strengthening of the efficiency of that which remains. Any means of strengthening and developing the British mercantile fleet is a matter which can only meet with the complete approval of the House, but the policy assumes that British shipping cannot attract a larger percentage of world carrying trade than we enjoy at the present time. It hopes, at best, that from some international conference the shipping industry may be able to stabilise itself somewhere at or about the present percentage. That is not a very hopeful view of the prospects of British shipping. It is a somewhat pessimistic outlook and it can only be held to be a realistic view if one assumes that the power and capacity of foreign nations to carry uneconomically, indefinitely, is taken to be enduring. It would only be possible for that assumption to be valid if the efforts of the Government to induce other countries to take a more reasonable point of view are a failure.

As a measure to improve the technical efficiency of the industry this proposal must command approval. Whether it is in fact the best way from the point of view of the efficiency of British industry is another question. Efficiency is one thing, but it has to be related to economy and to the factor of value, if it is to be of any help at the present time. We have a large number of valuable ships afloat in the British Mercantile Marine at present and it may very well be that these ships in past years have been so reduced in book value year by year by means of depreciation funds, etc., that there is a very small capital charge against them to-day, and that it is the case that a vessel which may not be perfectly efficient is still the most efficient unit that can be employed to-day. It may have ten years of good useful life before it and by reason of depreciation written off and a diminished and diminishing capital account against it, may be able to run at a profit, while a new ship built under this scheme, having to meet depreciation and interest on the full capital charge, will in fact be running at a loss. The building resources of shipping companies are very much depleted and it is doubtful whether this is the best way of dealing with the matter.

It is essential, if the industry is to continue to work economically, that tonnage should not be replaced until the right moment has come for its replacement. Tonnage should be permitted to live its economic life and shipowners should not be penalised if it does not do so. This scheme would appear to operate unequally and unfairly between different sections of the shipping industry. The owner whose ships are all old may derive immediate benefit, but, on the other hand, the owner whose boats are running efficiently and with a reasonable period of economic life before them May be put to disadvantage. Therefore, it seems to me a matter for serious consideration whether the period of two years will not lead to uneconomic scrapping of ships, and whether the House should not be asked to consider whether there should not be some extension of that period so that the scrapping of ships which are still running economically may not be brought about before their time. This proposal if pursued on a large scale may well destroy the economic foundation of the whole industry.

There are various matters which are mentioned in the Financial Resolution and in the White Paper which will require consideration at a later stage. I should like to ask a question with regard to the ships which are eligible for the subsidy. Have the conditions of the Financial Resolution been altered so as to allow some elasticity in the type of cargo which will attract the subsidy?


indicated assent.


I am glad to note that that is the case, because I cannot see how a strict and rigid classification would work without injustice to certain classes of cargo and ships.

There is one point, as representing a shipbuilding district, to which I would like to refer, and to ask for some explanation of it, namely, the reference on page 4 of the Memorandum on the Financial Resolution, paragraph 10. We are here told that the advances made for the purpose of building or modernising cargo vessels are not to exceed in the aggregate £10,000,000, and that that will enable 1,000,000 tons of shipping to be built. That, surely, must contemplate the building of the lowest possible type of tonnage that can be put on the sea to-day. That would, I think, not lead to very hopeful conditions in the shipyard, because ships of that kind would probably only be built upon the most economical lines that could possibly be devised. As an expedient for promoting the general efficiency of the British Mercantile Marine, it would appear hardly wise that if ships are to be replaced they should be replaced with vessels of types of the lowest possible kind.

It may be because I am not a shipowner that I find difficulty in understanding the basis upon which the subsidy is to be given, that of a ton-day. It would seem that if two ships were sailing home from the Cape of Good Hope, or any other distant point, a nine knot boat and a 15 knot boat, carrying the same cargo, the boat which was inefficient and had the slower sailing capacity would attract a considerably larger amount of subsidy than the more efficient boat. It would appear that this would be a case where the prize would not necessarily go to the swift. For my own benefit, if not for the benefit of anybody else, I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman how that matter would be worked out.

I have referred to the constitution of the committees which are to consider these matters in the interest of the harmony of the industry as a whole and the possibility of working the scheme upon a practical basis. Such consideration as I have been able to give to the matter leads me to the view that a subsidy cannot be a permanent remedy for the position of British shipping. Unless there can be a different policy brought about between the trading countries of the world and a more reasonable attitude adopted, then we may assume that when we come to the end of 1935 we shall find precisely the same arguments being brought to the House, with precisely the same amount of cogency, and we shall find this subsidy, like the old man of the sea, fastened upon our backs and exceedingly difficult to get rid of. The only hope for British shipping is a greater amount of world trade and the opening of the ports of the world. I hope that the various agencies mentioned and the discussions of the various shipping federations, national and international, and the Governments themselves will devote their energies to bringing about more favourable world conditions.

4.47 p.m.


I am sure from my perusal of the main publications of the various shipping interests in this country that there is no body of people who will echo more fervently and more enthusiastically the concluding sentences of the hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) than the shipping industry itself. From personal talk that I have had with members of that industry and also from their public utterances I imagine that nothing has ever been so obnoxious to those who have maintained a strong individual character from the beginning to the end than that they should come before Parliament in any situation in which it is suggested that they require a subsidy. There has been no more independent industry in this country and no industry which has been built up more entirely on the skill and character of those who administer it, than the shipping industry.

Before I come to the merits of the question which we are discussing, may I say that the House was charmed with the entertaining prelude of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate from the Opposition side, although that speech created more amusement in our breasts than perhaps the right hon. Gentleman realised? I do not know any spectacle more amusing than to see a lady with a past reproaching other people for their lack of virtue. The right hon. Gentleman made merry with regard to the experiments of this Government in principles which he shortly described as being "pay for not raising hogs". If there is any vice in that particular principle, may I ask the House to consider who it was that first brought that principle before Parliament? Who was it that on the first occasion put into effect a Statute by which people were paid for not raising coal? Everyone will remember that it was the basis of the Coal Act passed by the right hon. Gentleman's Government that each coal-owner should be entitled in his district to a quota, and that those who were deficient or inefficient, or idle, or lazy could always make money by selling their quota. That is the principle of being paid for not doing the job.


Coal was actually raised.


Yes, but by somebody else, and it might not be raised at all if the Committee took the point of view that a less amount of coal would be to the advantage of the community. If they thought that there was overproduction it was quite within their competence under the quota system to pay for coal not being raised. That is exactly the principle on which the legislation of the Labour Government proceeded in regard to the question of coal. The right hon. Gentleman had two other general remarks to make. He referred to industry and the individual. I think the right hon. Gentleman will realise very well that it is upon industry that the existence of the individual depends and that it is by the work which industry gives that people are enabled to live. Large numbers of schemes for which the Labour Government were responsible consisted in subsidising industries in order that people might get work. I think the difference between the principles to which they adhere and those of the present Administration is the fact that this subsidy is being given in order to keep people in work on the ships which sail from this country.

The whole basis of the case for this subsidy is that unless it is given there must be a great decline in the British shipping industry with a consequent deplorable decrease in the amount of employment which that shipping would afford. The right hon. Gentleman further indicated that the present Government were prone to support inefficiency. Well, he might find several industries in this country which are inefficient and obtain perhaps more support than they are entitled to through the incidence of tariffs or otherwise, but the British shipping industry can never be taunted with being inefficient. It is one of the most efficient industries which we have in this country, and certainly much more efficient than its rivals in any part of the world. It is not because it is inefficient that the shipping industry is in the position it is to-day. It is because it is confronted by a new means of support given by most of the other great countries of the world to their shipping which up to now has never been given to the British shipping industry.

What are the facts which confront us? Our tramp shipping has been one of the glories of the British Empire and particularly of this little island of which we are all so proud, but its position to-day is one of very great jeopardy. I might perhaps be allowed to remind the Committee of the kind of consideration which we must have in our minds at the present time. In the first place, we must remember that the tramp shipping industry is not only paying no dividends at all, but in many cases, as everyone must recognise, the owners have come practically to the end of their resources. Forty-eight of the companies to-day are unable to make anything like adequate provision for the depreciation of their ships. They fail by two-thirds in being able to provide money out of revenues for the replacement of ships at the time when they become obsolete. Complaint has been made about many shipowners selling their ships to foreigners so that they become competitors with other British shipowners, but the reason why these ships have been sold is not philanthropy or beneficence or a desire to benefit the foreigner. These ships are sold because people are at the end of their resources and must find money to carry on. It is that type of circumstance which I think my right hon. Friend is trying to provide against by the present proposals.

What will happen if the present state of things persists? Bankruptcy to a very large number of these shipowners must result, and the selling of their ships to foreigners at whatever price they will fetch will create a worse and worse situa- tion for the other shipowners who are able to remain in the trade. Eventually you arrive at a position when the whole fabric of British tramp shipping will collapse. That is a situation which no Member of the British House of Commons, no matter on which side he sits, is likely to be willing to contemplate. He must wish to do something not only to maintain our position but to bring back our old tradition of pre-eminence upon the seas, because if we lose that what is to become of the people of these islands?

Our shipping is a very important factor in the fortunes of the country. We have to consider not merely the necessity of people who live on an island to have means of carriage by which food and raw material may be brought here. There are many other considerations. We have depended until now upon the revenues brought by our shipping to provide us with the means by which we may purchase things we require from outside. The balance of payments in this country has been very largely kept up by the services we have been able to render to the nations of the world by our ships in carrying their cargoes. If you once come to a situation in which that revenue disappears, I ask how is this country to meet its bills to other nations for the commodities which it has to buy? But that is not the only consideration. There is a considerable revenue coming to the City of London. Because we have been the preeminent shipowning country of the world chartering has been done to a large extent in London. That means that the money market benefits, as well as the chartering market and everyone connected with shipping.

Finally, we come to the consideration that if we are ever again involved in war and we have no merchant shipping, it will be a case of God help this country. There is no question that in the last war our lives were saved by our shipping. Without our merchant ships we could not have survived. All these considerations bring us inevitably to the conclusion that this industry must be saved. The only thing that I want to criticise is the smallness of the sum of £2,000,000, because it is so vital a matter to this country that shipping should be once more prosperous. What is the reason that shipping has been suffering so badly? Of course, there is the general depression of trade, but beyond that we are not holding our own in the traffic that we used to have and which is still in existence. Traffic has gone to other countries for no other reason than that other countries subsidise their ships and thus enable them to take cargoes at rates which it is impossible for British shipowners to look at. What are you going to do about that?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we must have the highest and most sympathetic concern for the seamen of our country. Heaven knows they have proved to be some of the most gallant members of our whole community. Nobody would wish anything to happen which could be in any way detrimental to their interest. I am not going in any way to controvert the statements which the right hon. Gentleman has been making to-day further than to say that the conditions of seamen are at least better on our ships than on any other ships in the world. That is an acknowledged fact. If the right hon. Gentleman dissents, I can only put my own knowledge against his. As I say, every one would wish that the best should be done for our seamen. Whatever may have to be done for them in the future will be done if the necessity is there. I can only remind the Committee that there have been two Labour Governments with Presidents of the Board of Trade and that no proposals were put before Parliament for any change in the regulations regarding British seamen. Therefore, I think it may be taken that their conditions are not so bad. At any rate, whatever may be done about that is not going to do any good at this moment, when you are dealing with an urgent situation which requires immediate attention.

Does the right hon. Gentleman disapprove of this subsidy, and, if he does, what alternative is he going to offer? I hate subsidies as much as the shipping industry hates them, but for the life of me I cannot think of any other way in which to meet the subsidies of other nations except by putting our own people in an equally favourable position. This paltry £2,000,000 makes a poor comparison with the immense subsidies which much smaller countries, countries not nearly so rich, are giving.


This is only a beginning.


I cannot propose that the grant should be any larger. It is only the Government that can propose a grant of money, not an individual, as my hon. Friend well knows. The hon. Member who last spoke suggested that other countries would increase their subsidies to outrival our subsidies. I am perfectly certain that no other nation, except perhaps one, is in a position to enter into competition with us in the amount of subsidies. The United States of America is the only country in the world that would be able to adopt such a course. If we show ourselves firm enough about this matter and make it clear to other nations that we are determined to save British shipping, that we are going to check this method of subsidies and will pursue this course relentlessly, I do not believe any other nation could enter into competition. It is a way I believe to bring about a convention which would enable us to get rid of subsidies altogether.

My hon. Friend mentioned the calling of an international conference on shipping. That is just the sort of conference in which I think our decision, without being in any way truculent, would bring about an improvement. I have the greatest possible hope that under the skilful handling of my right hon. Friend, who knows more than anyone about this matter, it may be possible to induce other nations to reconsider the course upon which they have embarked and perhaps induce them to turn to a more reasonable course than they have been taking in the past. In order to realise the formidable character of the competition with which we are faced, we have only to look at the amount of the subsidies which are being given to-day by France and Italy in favour of their ships. Those two nations have not one-tenth of the interest that we have in the shipping of the world. I do not refer to the actual figures of shipping, but to the importance to those countries, as compared with ours, of maintaining the shipping industry.

I think that the Government are making a very small demand on the purse of the country in asking for a grant to tramp shipping of £2,000,000. I am glad it is proposed to set up an administrative committee to deal with these subsidies. It will enable better co-ordination to exist between the ships and shipowning interests in the country than has been the case in the past. There is no question that the shipping industry has been conducted on strictly individualistic lines. Our tramp shipping has been conducted on a basis which left each person completely to his own free will, and it conduced to a disharmony which was not for the good of the industry or the individual who at the moment was following his own particular devices.

This leads me to another point. We have not ended the matter when we have discussed the question of tramp shipping. We have to consider the position of the cargo liner. The cargo liner is a ship which puts itself on the berth to carry commodities, but also fills up its space with cargo which would be carried in other circumstances by tramp shipping. To that extent, they 'enter into active competition with each other in all seas of the globe. There is a very definite fear, and I think a well justified fear, that the subsidising of one branch of our shipping is unfair to another branch which is conducting the same operation, and that it may be detrimental to the other branch with which it is competing. Everyone must have that clearly in mind, and, if we have not thought about it before, it has been brought to our notice by a statement which the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association have made to the Press. Reading the statement as it stands one might not follow all that is implied in it and, therefore, the Committee will forgive me if I say what is my understanding of the position.

There are two great bodies representing the shipowners of this country, the Chamber of Shipping, which represents three-quarters of all the shipping we have, including every variety, and the Liverpool Steamship Owners Association, which is entirely composed of representatives of cargo-liner-owners. I do not think there are any owners of any other kind of shipping in the latter Association, and, as I understand, there is within the ambit of the Chamber of Shipping twice as much in the way of tonnage of cargo liners as there is in the Liverpool Steamship Owners Association. There has appeared a note in the public Press to-day which indicates a difference of opinion between these two important bodies. The Chamber of Shipping entirely sympathises with the view that something should be done for the cargo liners, and they have represented that view vigorously to His Majesty's Government. In the end, they came to a definite proposition which they put before His Majesty's Government, to the effect that while a £2,000,000 subsidy was being given to the tramp shipping £500,000 should be given to the cargo-liner part of the industry. I understand that the £500,000 is based on some calculations which the Chamber of Shipping have made. But the Liverpool Shipowners Association take the view that tins is not enough in their case, and they consider that they ought to be indemnified to a much greater extent. They put it in this way: The Association are firmly of opinion that there can be no practical relationship between a sum of £500,000 and the serious damage, specific and consequential, which might result to the cargo liner interests if the subsidy schemes were to he operated for the sole benefit of tramp shipping without due regard to the interests of British shipping as a whole. Accordingly they take the view that rather than have the £500,000 they would see what was going to happen; await the result of the Government proposals, and, thereafter, if as a consequence of this subsidy they find themselves in difficulties, or have made losses, they would then be in a position to make representations to the Government with a view to obtaining some form of assistance themselves.


I think the governing words in the note are "without due regard to the interests of British shipping as a whole." They hope that the Bill will give an assurance in the direction that there will not be any detriment to other sections of the industry.


They want to see how it works out. At any rate, it is clear that for the time being the Liverpool Shipowners Association is not going to make any claim for a sum of £500,000; they prefer to see what is going to happen and then make a claim, if it is justified. No one will fail to realise the position of the cargo liners in this matter. It is a pity that the Government have not seen their way to find an amount of money for them as in the case of the tramp steamers, but I can understand the difficulties there may be in getting from the Exchequer a sufficient amount of subsidy, particularly as I have some acquain- tance with the Exchequer. At any rate, we are left to-day with the position in which a subsidy is asked for the tramp steamship owners and, as I take it, no objection will be taken by the cargo liner owners to any grant to them while whatever claim they themselves may have will be held in reserve. In the meantime, an Amendment has been put on the Order Paper to the Resolution to the effect: But such committee shall not recommend any payment which would be to the detriment of any other section of the industry. I do not imagine that those responsible for that Amendment wish to make this subsidy nugatory or to reduce the amount available to tramp shipping. I imagine that they are fully in sympathy with the subsidy, but are endeavouring to avoid a situation of greater difficulties for themselves. In that case, the form in which they have expressed their Amendment is not very happy. Indeed, I do not see how a committee in any circumstances would be able to recommend any portion of a subsidy to anybody, because they cannot possibly estimate the result in advance and therefore no payment would ever be made. I hope those responsible for the Amendment will take that point into consideration, because I am sure that is not their desire. As far as my judgment goes, the Amendment might do great harm, and it will not do anybody any good. I hope I have made it clear that while there is a difference of opinion between these two great bodies they are nevertheless united in the belief that the cargo liner has a claim for consideration as well as the tramp shipowner, and that both branches of the industry are supporting the present subsidy.


May I, as one who is responsible for the Amendment to which reference has been made, say that the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) is quite correct. Later on I hope we shall have an opportunity of discussing the Amendment more fully, but our object is as stated by the right hon. Gentleman.


I will only refer briefly to the proposal in the Money Resolution which deals with the question of what is known as "scrap and build". The hon. Member opposite indicated that there are differences in regard to that policy. For example, a shipowner who has nothing but old ships has every advantage to gain, but, on the other hand, a shipowner who has been more active and more enterprising, who has new ships, would be at some disadvantage as regards his rival in business. All these things have been taken into careful consideration by the President of the Board of Trade in the policy put forward, and I am certain that this policy, taken as a whole, is going to be of great benefit to the shipbuilding industry, which, after all, is an important factor in our prosperity and one to which attention must be given. Accordingly, I am prepared to give support to this part of the scheme also, and I hope that what we are beginning to-day will bring much needed relief to a great industry, without which this country would cease to exist as a great Power.

5.30 p.m.


I approach this subject, knowing how serious the position of shipping is. I have no desire to make a racy speech, but only to speak with a sense of responsibility and with understanding of the great difficulty before the Committee in dealing with such a proposition as this. I am fully aware that subsidies given by other nations are jeopardising British maritime supremacy, and that British shipping is finding it most difficult to carry on business. I am proud to have the admission from those who have knowledge of the sea that a great deal of our eminence in the past has been owing to the personnel of the British mercantile marine, the perfection of their seamanship, and the management of the whole industry. Every one recognises in calm moments the great importance and the responsibility of the mercantile marine. Especially was that so in the hazardous period of the War. We are anxious to see once again British supremacy on the sea. We are anxious to see our entry into the markets of the world and to know that our shipping is carrying to and from this country the goods that that trade represents. We are not little Englanders on the Labour benches. Our sons and our friends go to sea and we know to what extent the life of the nation depends on the sea. Our officers are the greatest in the world; there can be no doubt about that.

In view of Japanese subsidies, Italian and French subsidies, and the greater subsidy of the American nation, for the first time in the lifetime of British shipping the British mercantile marine comes to this House to make an appeal. We ask ourselves what justification there is for the appeal. No firm likes to admit that it is clown and out. Those in the shipping industry, like ordinary men and women in the every-day affairs of life, ask to be given a fair chance. We are asked to see what can be done to put the industry on its feet. I know of nothing in the field of economics that will better this nation more than an improvement in the carrying trade of our ships which sail to all the ports of the world, and a guarantee that the men who sail the seven seas will do so under good and happy conditions. The prosperity of the nation depends not only on the shipowner having good ships but on the moral of the men who sail in those ships. I know of no industry in which there is more need for the link of co-operation, in this case co-operation between the shipping companies and those who man the ships, whether officers or men in the stokeholds. We shall not be able to meet the competition of the world unless we have that co-operation. Ships without contented men are of no use. Therefore, the moral of the men is of great importance, and it must be the purpose of any Government to see that the workers are contented.

In examining the Bill I ask myself what it proposes to do. Personally I regard it as a provision for a certain period to enable shipping to get on its feet. Thereafter there will not be any need for an extension of this help and the industry will be self-supporting. As a Member of Parliament representing an area largely constituted of the shipping element, who is asked to support the demand that the industry be put on its feet, I ask myself whether a living wage is provided for those men who have the first claim on the industry. It is fundamental in Christian ethics, whether or not it be the morality of the business world, that the man who works and has a home to support must be enabled to maintain that home. There would be something radically wrong in the state of Denmark if that were not so. The plea in regard to finance has been dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), but it cannot be taken alone. A nation is made up of its people, not of its ships. A ship without men is of no avail. As I have said, we on the Labour benches are not little Englanders and we are not trying to hamper trade. We are here to see that the men engaged in this industry receive better treatment than they now get if this concession is made to the industry. That is logic; it is reasonable and sensible. If any agreement is reached which means the giving of national money to an industry, the men who work in that industry must be taken into consideration.

When I look round the great city of Liverpool I see the evil consequences of unemployment. I cannot condemn any policy of any Government if it will make conditions better in any particular calling. That would be foreign to my feelings. I would be unjust to the people I represent if I was not pleased to see any Measure that would give to the mercantile marine, those on deck and below deck, a better opportunity in life. An hon. Friend is to deal with the engineering side of this question. I understand that from the point of view of shipbuilding this Bill will give a better opportunity of employment. I am interested because I have three sons who are engineers. I am in agreement with the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) in regard to the policy, but I do not agree with the point of view he expressed when he read a statement about the Liverpool position. Nor do I agree that there is unanimity. For the purposes of this Debate I have had sent to me a document marked "Private and confidential." I have read in the Press a statement the sum and substance of which is that there is not unanimity. As I understand the Liverpool position it is that there is a danger of the tramp steamer being in competition with the cargo steamers. That may be a domestic matter.

Whether or not the tramp steamer will undercut rates so that the cargo liner will suffer is a question of business competition in the shipping world. I do not know anyone better able than those in the shipping industry, the shipowners, to manage this business. I do not think that the humble Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) can teach any ship- owner his trade. There is a difference of opinion in Liverpool on this subject of the tramp steamer and the cargo steamer. My first anxiety is in regard to the seamen, but I hope that the Government will take into consideration the special plea which has been put forward by Liverpool regarding what may happen if this competition should take place. I have said some harsh things at times about the President of the Board of Trade, because of what I considered to be his non-attention to things, but I think he has enough acumen to understand the position in this matter, and I am convinced that in a serious crisis such as this he is well aware of what is essential to protect this industry.

I have one or two observations to make in regard to labour, not as criticism, but from the constructive point of view. I am anxious to put one or two points to the President of the Board of Trade on a matter which has interested me for a long time. I know that I will be out of order if I deal with the subject from any but the financial point of view. It is not beyond the wit of the President of the Board of Trade to bring into operation some arrangement with the shipping companies that no subsidy shall be given unless the companies observe the Maritime Board regulations. In regard to labour I know that there are difficulties from the point of view of what might be termed British labour. "British labour" is a term with a very wide interpretation, and because of that I am bound to get back to the parish pump. The Empire is mighty and wide. It is no use my seeing British nationals standing at the street corners out of work without knowing that some provision is being made for them. Our homes and cities are being made destitute because the mercantile marine officer and man, on deck and below in the stokeholds, are standing at the street corners to-day.

There are 50,000 unemployed. The number may be wrong in regard to a few here or there, but that is the accredited total. From 40,000 to 50,000 aliens are sailing out of this country. It would appear, as a matter of bookkeeping and of a debtor and creditor account, that one should cancel the other, but what a difference it would make in the bookkeeping and accountancy of our men and women in this land if, instead of the foreigner being in our ships, the spending power of our people was here in England. When the shipowners come along and ask for assistance, and the House of Commons is prepared to give a fillip to a British industry dating as far back as the days of Raleigh, surely in 1934 it is not too much to ask that British ships should be manned by British men. Is it a nice sight, as I walk through the south end of the city of Liverpool, to find a black settlement, a black body of men—I am not saying a word about their colour—all doing well and a white body of men who faced the horrors of war walking the streets unemployed? Is it a nice sight to see Lascars trotting up the Scotland Road, and round Cardiff, and to see Chinamen walking along in the affluence that men of the sea are able to get by constant employment, while Britishers are walking the streets and going to the public assistance committees?

I am asked, "What are you doing in the House of Commons to readjust these things?" The Sailors' and Firemen's Union are asking for better conditions for their men. They are asking for employment, and our great cities are asking the National Government, when a crisis like this is at hand, "What are you doing for the nation?" Is it any good replying that we are a British Empire and that we can have men from the uttermost corners of the Empire coming into our own land, while our own people can get only public assistance relief, while some of the younger and the older men are recommended to go to the workhouse? Surely, in 1934, if the Labour party is willing to do all it. can to assist in the amelioration of even a shipping class, it is not too much to ask the President of the Board of Trade, who has a great responsibility and is the spokesman of the National Government, "What are you doing for our own flesh and blood?"

This is a question that must be asked. We are our brothers' keepers. We owe to our own men and women the proper means of existence. That is the purpose of a Government. It is not that I wish to denounce what is about to be brought into operation—I wish it the greatest success possible—but this problem of our streets in our great industrial areas and this problem of our Empire is one that I am unable to fathom unless those in Parliament are prepared to deal with it. Give a subsidy to the Indian Government if you have to carry the Lascars, and if you have to carry the blacks, give them a subsidy, but, in the name of God, give a living to our own nationals so that they may be able to sail the seas, so that our own boys and girls may find happier homes and the wives of these men live better and nobler lives. I have seen the horrors of war, and because I see to-day the horrors of the stagnation that follows war, I appeal to the Minister to see what, he can do in the adjustment of this £2,000,000, and to see whether an agreement cannot be come to with the shipowners to give better employment to our own unemployed.

5.51 p.m.


I can safely say how much we appreciate the efforts of the President of the Board of Trade to put British shipping on to a better basis, and although some of us may not quite see eye to eye with him on every aspect of the matter, it is not from mere criticism, but from a genuine desire to try to make his scheme work as fairly as possible. It is a very complicated subject, and all the more so because shipping is international and you may be able to lay down rules for your domestic shipping, but here you come up against an international problem. The President of the Board of Trade said on the 3rd July: The Government are prepared to ask this House to grant for vessels carrying tramp cargoes under tramp conditions a subsidy to be used for defensive purposes."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 3rd July, 1934; col. 1722, Vol. 291.] I have always understood that that was the fundamental basis on which the right hon. Gentleman would give assistance to British shipping, hut this plan appears to have gone by the board. The White Paper, in Section 2 (a) on page 5, is a little ambiguous and rather negative. It appears to suggest that the scheme has gone by the board, because it says: Vessels falling within the provisions of paragraph (1) will qualify for subsidy only in respect of a voyage in the course of which all the cargo carried is carried under charter party. That is quite a different thing from "tramp cargoes under tramp conditions," but the Clause as it stands would be much clearer if the word "all" were put in front of "vessels" and the word "only" were deleted. Again, in Clause 4 on page 6, it says: Every shipowner desiring to participate in the subsidy will register with the committee his name and a list … of the tramp ships owned by him. I do not know what the idea is. Why we should put it in this form instead of in the old way, I cannot understand. I should like to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that we can assume that every ship carrying a tramp cargo under charter party, irrespective of type or ownership, is accepted as a tramp for that voyage. It is rather important to know that, from the liner point of view. The White Paper makes no mention of "carrying tramp cargoes under tramp conditions." Again, in the statement of the 3rd July, the President of the Board of Trade said: Such a defensive subsidy can be given only on condition that the shipowners formulate a scheme satisfactory to the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1934; col. 1722, Vol. 291.] This scheme has been formulated largely by the tramp section of the industry. The cargo liners did formulate a scheme, but the Board of Trade rejected it. That scheme was for the sole purpose, not of trying to get anything, but of trying to equalise conditions as between cargo liners and tramps. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the statesmanlike thing to do was to give the scheme six months' trial, and that if we were found then to be suffering injury, we could come again and put our case forward. It is, however, almost impossible to prove damage. Rates fluctuate from week to week and from day to day, and if in six months' time a rate on tramp commodities is 1s. or 2s. higher or lower, you cannot prove that the injury is owing to the subsidy given to the tramps. Therefore, that request really means nothing. In common with a great many other cargo liner owners, I am in a position of trust to many thousands of shareholders, and if we feel that we are likely to be injured, it is our duty to put our case before the President of the Board of Trade.

The result of the scheme as it now stands is to provide for only one section of the industry, but I am afraid that it may do damage to other sections. I think that we shipowners, one and all, dislike subsidies. I personally would have pre- ferred any other method of trying to put the shipping industry right. Some other methods were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman in his statement on the 3rd July, and one, I am glad to see, he has adopted recently, and that is the method of trade agreements and using an adverse balance of trade to help British shipping. Throughout all these negotiations, as the President of the Board of Trade will bear me out, the liners have supported the tramp appeal for a temporary subsidy, as we realised that they were the section of the industry which was most down and out and that they needed tiding over a bad time. We actually asked nothing for ourselves, and we only made one condition, which was that other sections of the industry should not be prejudiced. I understood that the President of the Board of Trade was in sympathy with that condition. I question very much whether the tramps, without the support given them by the liners, would have been successful in their appeal.

The White Paper, in Clause 6 (1), makes two conditions. The first is that such a scheme must prevent as far as possible the subsidy from being dissipated by the domestic competition of British ships carrying tramp cargoes. I am not quite certain what is meant by the words "domestic competition." Do they refer to competition between tramps themselves, or competition among the whole of the British shipping trade? Nor am I at all certain that this condition can be fulfilled under the scheme as it exists. The White Paper, on page 9, lays it down that a tramp owners' committee would promote co-operation to "minimise domestic competition," and promote employment of tramp shipping against foreign subsidised competition. That is all right from the tramp point of view, but there is no guarantee that I can see that the liner and cargo companies may not suffer. You have to remember that tramp cargoes are not confined only to tramp owners. Liners carry a large amount of tramp cargoes, both on the berth and in full cargoes.

The other day, when we were trying to solve this problem, the Chamber of Shipping asked cargo liners to submit their figures of tramp cargoes—that is, cereals, sugar, rice, wheat, and so on—which they carried over last year, 1933, to find out the sum necessary to equalise conditions as between tramps and liners. I looked up those figures the other day, and I found that over 400,000 tons of tramp cargo was carried last year by my own firm, no part of which would be eligible for the subsidy, although it was pure tramp cargo, and cargo for which we are to a very large extent in competition with the tramp ships. Under the scheme tramp ships carrying tramp cargoes, are subsidised, but liners, while carrying similar cargoes on the berth, get nothing. The same applies to all the other liner companies, which can show similar figures. Liners may under the scheme actually be worse off unless some provision is made for them, because they will not only have to fight against foreign subsidised shipping, but they will have to meet increased competition of subsidised British tramps. The second condition in Paragraph 6 is to ensure that it is effectively directed to securing the greater employment of British tramp shipping at the expense of foreign subsidised shipping. I believe the scheme makes an honest attempt to ensure this, but, if rates are cut by subsidised British tramps against foreign tramps, liners may have to do one of two things. They may have to accept reduced rates as a result of that cutting, or lose tramp cargo which was formerly carried by them because it may be lost to the tramp trade. There is, therefore, the possibility that "the greater employment of British tramp shipping" may be achieved at the expense of British liner ships.

The competition of foreign ships with liners is of two kinds. First, there are the foreign subsidised liners which have established themselves in trades which were formerly mainly run by British liners. This was done to a large extent immediately after the War. During the War British liners were commandeered by the Government, and they had to withdraw from those trades which they had built up in order to carry food and troops from America. During that time the American and Japanese took the opportunity of coming into all the trades they could. After the War, when we tried to get back our trades, we found they had been taken; and ever since we have been fighting an uphill battle against foreign subsidised shipping. The foreign subsidies are largely directed against liner trades, and liners have had to bear the principal weight of foreign subsidised shipping. As a result, they have lost a large part of their trades. Many of them have been made unprofitable to liners owing to the number of foreign subsidised ships which are now in them, and some of the trades which were built up and entirely confined to British ships are now practically lost to us altogether. One case is the trade from South Africa to the United States. I do not think there has been a British ship on that trade during the last year.

The second way in which foreign subsidies are directed against our shipping is that foreign tramps, by cutting into tramp rates, react against and cause the lowering of liner rates. It is important to remember that tramp rates do affect the liner rates. The general cargo rates are influenced by rates on tramp commodities, and vice versa. Subsidies may cause rates to be still further depressed by intensifying the cutting tactics of foreign tramps. British tramps, by using subsidies to meet foreign competition, may put liners at a disadvantage when carrying similar cargoes on berth conditions, not only as against foreign competition, hut also as against British tramps. For that reason the liners believe that it is necessary to ask for assistance from the Government on an equivalent basis proportional to tramp cargoes carried by liners on berth terms. As regards the second condition in Paragraph 6, liners are in agreement with tramp owners when they said in a statement a short time ago: In tramp trades subsidised foreign competition is so widespread in its effect upon freight rates that the only effective method of directing a subsidy against foreign subsidised competition is to pay to all British vessels engaged in carrying tramp cargo as all such vessels are suffering from the rate cutting by foreign subsidised vessels. As tramp cargo is carried by British liners as well as tramps in competition with foreign subsidised shipping, the scheme now before the House is necessarily incomplete unless provision is made for both classes of British shipping. Otherwise, you cannot guarantee that the subsidies will be fully and completely directed against foreign subsidised shipping. Subsidies given only to British tramps, while intentionally directed against foreign subsidised shipping, may unintentionally be directed against British cargo liners. In fact, if the grant of a sum additional to the £2,000,000 which it is proposed to give to the tramps, were made to cargo liners, it would be complementary to the measures proposed for the tramps. The Chamber of Shipping estimated that the liner equivalent to the £2,000,000 for tramps is £500,000. On the other hand, the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association consider that sum inadequate for two reasons. The liners will be hit directly on tramp cargo carried on berth, and the lower tramp rates will tend to react on general cargo rates.

On the question of principle, both the London Chamber of Shipping and the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association are at one that it is necessary and vital to cargo liner interests that some compensation should be given to them for any injury that may be done. The only difference between them is on the question of the amount. I am certain that if the President of the Board of Trade will seriously consider this, it will not take long to rectify this difference. The liners have refused all along to consider taking any sum out of the £2,000,000 which is to go to the tramps. They consider that any amount required to meet the position of the cargo liners should be additional to that sum, and not at the expense of the tramp ship section of the trade. So far as the Chamber of Shipping is concerned, there has been throughout the negotiations complete accord between the cargo liners, the passenger liners and the tramp section on the question of the £2,000,000, and the equalising amount for the liners. They both support each other's claim, and both think it the only fair way in which the scheme can be worked.

I do not know what unanimity the President of the Board of Trade wants from the shipping industry, but I do not think we have ever had such unanimity as we have to-day. There are 12,000,000 tons of shipping in the London Chamber of Shipping including passenger liner and tramps. There are 4,000,000 tons in the Liverpool Steamship Owners' Association and of that, 1,250,000 tons is represented by London shipping which is in the London Chamber of Shipping. This amount of shipping is unanimous, which means that at least 80 per cent. of the trade is unanimous on this question, and the other 20 per cent. is unanimous in principle, but is not agreed on the amount that should be involved. It is surely not the intention of the Government to place liners at a disadvantage as compared with tramps in competition with similar cargo. I repeat that subsidies can only be effectively directed against foreign subsidised competition if it is given to all British ships, both tramps and liners, carrying tramp cargo.

If the Government were agreeable and would look upon this favourably, I suggest the modus operandi would be a Clause laying down that such indemnification as may be necessary should be granted to cargo lines after consultation between the industry and the Board of Trade to operate concurrently with the tramp subsidy. It is almost impossible to separate shipping into two watertight compartments. They both carry the same class of cargo, and to a certain extent they are friendly although in competition with each other. The President of the Board of Trade said on 3rd July: From the point of view of the British Mercantile Marine, competition created and maintained by Government subsidy cannot be regarded as fair competition and British shipowners are entitled to seek the help of their Government if they are not able successfully to defend themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd July, 1934; col. 1721, Vol. 291.] If foreign subsidies are unfair to British shipping, it is equally unfair to give subsidies to one section against the other. We are told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks he cannot afford £500,000. We know that the £2,000,000 asked for by the tramps is the minimum required by them to keep tramp shipping in being for the next 12 months. If we compare that amount with the large amounts given to agriculture in marketing schemes, milk, meat, sugar, and so on, I think the amount we are asking in order to make the scheme fair to all parties is a paltry sum. I cannot believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot afford £500,000. After all, shipowners have had to pay their share of that taxation on behalf of those other industries, and that is one reason why I am against subsidies—that it is impossible to give them in such a manner that they will be fair to all the other industries. Look at the beet sugar subsidy. Admittedly that is an uneconomic industry, and I do not know how many millions, but I believe £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, have been given to it. As a result, £400,000 worth of freights have been lost to British shipping in respect of cargoes from overseas. It is a big sum. We have been taxed to furnish that subsidy and are hit by it to that extent, and yet when we ask for £500,000 we are told that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot afford it.

The financial position of tramp shipping is bad enough, and I am sorry to say the liner position is but little better. From 1st January to 22nd November this year £41,000,000 of capital invested in liner companies paid no dividend whatever, and in the last five years 50 per cent. of the liner companies' capital has been lost. In 1929 the market value of the capital of the liner companies was £137,000,000, and in 1933 it was only £67,000,000. "Fair Play," in their issue of 4th January this year, showed that from 1914 to 1918 the liner companies paid dividends averaging 11.26 per cent. In 1933 the average had fallen to 1.56 per cent. In the years 1914 to 1918 cargo companies paid dividends averaging 14½ per cent., but in 1933 dividends had fallen to under 1 per cent.—to.97 per cent., to be precise. That shows that the position of the liner companies is not very satisfactory, and they are as important as tramps are to this country.

I would like to say one word on the Statutory Committee, which, it appears, are to have very wide powers. Apparently they can, to a very large extent, almost alter the shape of this scheme. They have power to withhold subsidies from different claimants. Will the President of the Board of Trade let us know the formation of that Statutory Committee, whether it is to be composed of all Government representatives or whether it is to include shipowners? If there are to be shipowners on it I suggest that the interests of the liner companies and the tramps must have fair and equitable representation. As regards the scrapping and building scheme, the President of the Board of Trade knows that I am not a lover of it, and I think he also knows that the industry generally is not in love with it, but we quite understand that it will help the depressed areas. Indeed, I am not at all sure that this part of the scheme ought not to have come into yesterday's Debate. It also has a danger and a disadvantage such as we experienced under the Trade Facilities Act, which everyone of us was only too glad to get rid of, because it was not doing any good to shipping at all. I always feel frightened that by giving opportunities to build new ships when there are already too many ships in existence we may be putting back the day of shipping recovery. In any case, foreign countries will certainly say: "There is £10,000,000 given to aid shipping," though we know that it is given largely to aid the depressed areas. Foreign countries will count up what has been given—£9,000,000 to the Cunard line, £10,000,000 to shipbuilding, £2,000,000 to the tramps, and they will say: "£21,000,000 has been given to British shipping—it is very heavily subsidised." We say that that £10,000,000 might have been used in a, more advantageous way for shipping. It may do a great deal of good to the depressed areas, but do not let it all be put to the account of shipping.

Then I would like to know why passenger and refrigerator tonnage is expressly excluded from the scheme. In these days of scientific improvements, it is essential for liner companies to go in largely for refrigerator tonnage. It is very costly, but it is a necessity for our Empire and for the food supply of this country, but, as I have shown, the position of the liner companies is not too strong when it comes to building expensive shipping. I would also ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he could see his way to allow shipowners to date back the scrapping period to 1st January of this year, 1934, because some of the more efficient companies have consistently scrapped their old tonnage and tried to keep their fleets up to date, and they would be rather penalised if they could not count the tonnage they have scrapped when less efficient companies have not scrapped tonnage at all.

I make no apology for having addressed the Committee at some length, because I am speaking for one of the most important and most vital industries, if not the most vital industry in this country. I know of no other industry which is of such importance in so many different ways. Our very industries are absolutely dependent upon our shipping for the conveyance of their raw materials, and so on. The food of the nation is also dependent on shipping, and if we went to war and had not a sufficient and an efficient, mercantile marine, it would be only a short time before the country would be starved. When we have allowed our Navy to sink to a size which is not commensurate with the requirements of this country it is more necessary than ever that we should keep in a healthy state the large liners which could be used as cruisers in war time. Last, but not least, it is shipping which provides the invisible exports which have done so much to help us to balance our Budgets in years gone by. For all these reasons, I appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to consider whether he cannot do something to equalise the position and improve the affairs of cargo liners.

6.23 p.m.


There is one thing which the Committee might permit me to say, and that is that the Board of Trade is the one Department of the Government in which the individual who is in charge of it, and his understudy, understand their business before us, and I am sure they will consider our demands in an intelligent fashion. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) who, I am sorry to see, is not now in his place, paid tribute to the ability of those who run the shipping industry. He said even more, that there were no more independent set of men in Britain. I might say the same of the tens of thousands of workers—there are none finer in the world, and they find themselves in exactly the same position as the shipowners. The right hon. Member for Hillhead described the shipowners as able and intelligent men, as men of outstanding character, and the same can be said of the workers; but, all the same, the shipping companies, the beet growers and other sections of agriculture are all coming to the Government to-day for subsidies, which proves conclusively that private enterprise is a failure. Even with such an outstanding figure as the President of the Board of Trade, than whom, I believe there is none with a greater understanding of the shipping business, and with All their ability and their independence of character, they have to come here to ask for assistance. That being the case, I want to put in a word for the engineers and the other men without whom the ships could not be run, and I would like the employers in the shipbuilding and engineering industries to pay attention to what I am going to say.

All over the country employers in the shipbuilding, the engineering and the motor industries tell me that there is a dearth, a scarcity, of highly skilled men. I deny that in toto. Remember who it is that says there is a dearth. It is not I, on behalf of the workers; it is the employers in every branch of the engineering industry. That being the case—if it be the case—surely it is in the interests of this country that the powers-that-be should see to it that the best type of man we have is encouraged to go into this industry. With all due respect to other industries in this country, Britain rests upon engineering, and not only Britain, but civilisation. This is the great engineering age, and if it be true that we cannot find as highly skilled men as we formerly did, that spells rack and ruin to the British Empire. I want the President of the Board of Trade, or whoever will speak later for the Government, to reply to several questions which I am now going to put.

I ask the Government to safeguard the interests of the workers in giving this subsidy. In drawing up the agreement with the Cunard Company and the White Star Line for the £9,000,000 subsidy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer neglected to see that there was a clause in that agreement to safeguard the interests of the workers. He admitted that to me in this House, but said that it was too late to go into the matter. Nobody knows better than the President of the Board of Trade that it so happens that no ship, building firm in this country provides better conditions, but I want to safeguard the good employers as well as the men against the bad employers. I want a Clause put in which the had employers will not evade. Hon. Members may ask, "Are conditions of such a character, and are there employers of labour in the shipbuilding industry to-day who do not conform to decent conditions of labour?" There are. In the shipbuilding industry, some firms systematically do all that they possibly can to evade the conditions laid down by the National Maritime Board. If the hon. and gallant Member for Hartlepool wishes the names of those firms—

Colonel ROPNER

indicated dissent.


No, I know the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not want them, but he challenged—

Colonel ROPNER

I was not contradicting the hon. Member's statement or saying that I did not want information, but I was dissenting from the hon. Member's attributing my constituency as Hartlepool.


I thank the hon. and gallant Member. Hon. Members were very anxious to get names from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I have the correspondence which passed between my union and the shipowners, and it will be as well to give the names in order to save any further trouble. Here is the name of the firm of Messrs. Cayzer, Irvine and Company, Limited. Another name is the Clan Line of the Clyde. There are also firms on the Mersey and the North-East Coast. What is it that those firms are enforcing? It is as well that the House should know; I am satisfied that neither the President of the Board of Trade nor other hon. Members of this House will permit firms who play this game upon the engineering industry of the country to get anything of the subsidy. Those firms systematically ask engineers, after agreeing under the National Maritime Board Agreement, to sign in their contract that at the end of their voyage they will forgo so much of their wages to the firm. This is not done in Germany or Russia, but here and by Englishmen to Englishmen and Scotsmen to Scotsmen—yea, even in Belfast. The matter does not end there.

When we agreed to a reduction in wages, more than one Minister paid tribute to the trade union movement because of peace in industry. The Government have a better chance to bring this country out of its difficulties than any other Government have had. There have been no strikes. The representatives of the workers have met the representatives of the employers more frequently and discussed in a more friendly way than ever before, but here are the thanks they get. They are not recognised by the President of the Board of Trade when he is dealing with this business. The representatives of the workers who, at the very least, are as important as the money represented by the shareholders, because the workers have invested their lives in the industry, after all their meetings with the employers ad the arrangements that have been come to, are treated in this contemptuous fashion and are ignored. If we were taking up the same attitude we could hold up the whole business; we could hold the whole country to ransom. We did so during the general strike. Do not tempt us too much. Do not treat this little party of ours with too much contempt. The treatment has gone a little too far. We had it here last night.

What did we do in the industry in 1931? We engineers accepted a reduction of 10 per cent. in wages for the whole of the marine engineers. Is that reduction to come back to us? Is it to be wiped out? Is it to be reduced to 5 per cent? I want to know these things. A further point is that the marine engineers and those who go down to the sea in ships surrendered their two weeks' holiday per year with pay, in order to help to meet the difficulties of the shipping industry. If we worked those two weeks we were paid for them, but we gave that up also. What do some shipping firms do? In recompense for that sacrifice, how is this great industry, which is now coming cap in hand, behaving towards those men who suffered reductions, and gave up privileges that they formerly enjoyed in order to assist the shipping industry? They are not satisfied with asking the men to surrender part of their pay at the end of the voyage, but they have displaced the fifth engineer. He is done away with and in his place a probationer has been introduced. That probationer is a fully-fledged engineer who must have served his five years and must produce his lines before he is signed on. What are the wages? Two pounds a month—for a fully fledged engineer. It takes as much ingenuity and ability to be an engineer as it does to be a school teacher.

I know what it is to train an engineer, and I know that the conditions that pre- vail are gradually killing the ambition to become an engineer. It was the ambition of the wife of the labourer in the engineering shops in the shipyards that her boy should become an engineer. Remember that the engineer does not content himself with working eight or ten hours per day in the workshops but has to go to the night school and study as hard as he would to become a lawyer before he can qualify to be a marine engineer. But after all her struggling and striving, if her son is fortunate enough to have another year in the shops as a journeyman, he gets the handsome salary from this great industry of two pounds a month—10 shillings a week. Again, I will give the President of the Board of Trade the names, and I hope that he will be prepared to meet a deputation of our executive on this matter before he hands away money to the people who are behaving in such a fashion. If it is true that there is a scarcity of highly skilled men in the engineering industry, one of the explanations is that young men of outstanding merits will not. go into it. What encouragement is it to folk to make this sacrifice to turn their sons into engineers? If there is an Empire and a country in the world which depend upon engineering, it is our country and our Empire. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will give these few points his very serious consideration, and will see that this grant is not given to shipowners who are not able to show that they are honourably observing the decisions of the National Maritime Board.

6.45 p.m.


Many of my hon. and right hon. Friends have dealt generally with the shipping position of the country, and I will endeavour to devote myself to the terms of the White Paper and to show the effect that it may generally have on the shipping position. I am happy to think, in the first place, as a member of the Tramp Shipping Committee, that the shipowners have been able so fully to comply with the terms which the President of the Board of Trade laid down when he first brought these matters before the House last July. Some of the Committee thought that they would be rather difficult to fulfil, but in the end, realising and appreciating how much the industry depended on the fulfilment of these conditions and terms, they came to the unanimous de- cision to accept them, and, indeed, I think that in several phases of the conditions they have gone further.

The White Paper shows that the Government are fully living up to the intentions which they then expressed regarding the industry in general. I think I am correct in saying that the President of the Board of Trade, in introducing these proposals last July, or it may have been earlier, said that the Government had not the slightest intention of seeing the shipping industry further depleted, and the White Paper which has now been issued fully bears out that statement. Bad as the shipping position was earlier in the year, I think that those who understand the industry best will agree that it is a great deal worse now. Taking 100 as the index figure in 1920, we find that the freight index in 1929 was 24.87, and for the ten months of 1934 it was only 18.82, showing that action such as the Government propose in the White Paper and in the Bill that is to follow was essential. The bringing into operation of the Bill will undoubtedly bring a great deal of hope into the industry, and the result in the end will be, of course, that more men will be brought into employment, though obviously it will take some little time. I read in "The Times" of 1st December these words: The industry is organising itself primarily to secure a subsidy. The subsidy will go a very great way in assisting the industry to tide over the difficult period until the industry of the world can be reorganised. But with great respect to such a well-informed journal as the "Times," I think that the industry has its eye much more on the weight that this document is likely to have in the councils of the International Committee which I understand is to sit in Berlin in January. Now that foreigners know that the full weight of the Government is behind our shipowners in demanding that the industry shall be reorganised until it is self-supporting and able to do without a subsidy, they will be all the more anxious, I consider, to see, if they can, that subsidies in the end are completely done away with. Some of my hon. Friends have stressed the point that shipowners do not really desire a subsidy, and have only asked that this subsidy should be given simply because they cannot afford to carry on the tramp shipping industry any longer without it. They have in mind the reorganisation of the industry as a whole rather than the mere fact of getting some £2,000,000. It has never yet been said publicly, certainly not in the House of Commons, but I believe that the attitude of foreign representatives at the Economic Conference towards the proposals put forward by our Government has had a very great deal to do with the Government so strenuously insisting on bringing forward the proposals which this Committee have before them to-day.

In the first place, if these proposals are carried through, there will be cash to enable British vessels to go to sea and live alongside subsidised or more cheaply run foreign vessels, and one will not have the mortification which I had last year of visiting several ports in the Mediterranean and hardly seeing the British flag flying there at all. I went as far as the Black Sea, and, as I say, it was a mortification for a shipowner to go to all those ports and not find the British flag flying at all. Here let me say that the showing of our flag in foreign ports has much more to do with trade than people may imagine. It is not merely the showing of the flag, but it is the fact that those ships are possibly, indeed probably, carrying British goods to those ports, and in 'the end British trade is benefiting. The subsidy will not merely assist shipping, but will assist British commerce in general. The employment of British sailors will find employment for every dealer in stores in the country, no matter what it is he supplies; ropes, sails or anything else of that character will benefit. No business induces more trade throughout the country than the shipping business, whether it be shipping itself or shipbuilding. Our invisible exports also will be affected. In 1929 they amounted to £340,000,000, whereas in 1931 they were only £73,000,000. I do not say that that is all due to shipping, but a very great deal of it undoubtedly is. Again, increased revenue will follow, whereas to-day the shipping industry cannot even pay depreciation.

This is what we have in the initial cash subsidy—the ability to get our ships to sea. But, more than that, we now know that we have the Government behind us, and what is still more to the point is that foreign Governments know that we have our Government behind us, and they will think twice before they go out of the conference room without trying to agree to something. This document spells deeds, not words. When the late Mr. William Graham, as President of the Board of Trade, went to Geneva to try to arrange for Free Trade—and may I say in passing that if he had succeeded 1 doubt whether this Measure would have been asked for to-day—he had nothing to bargain with. Now we have this document to bargain with when we get into the conference room, and the result will, I hope, be much more satisfactory. We very much value the cash subsidy, as it will enable our ships to get to sea again and show the British flag where it ought to be shown. Equally we value the fact that we have the Government behind us.

The Government have, if I may say so, been very clever in framing the subsidy payments. The Committee will note that they are based on the trade level of 1929 taken as 100. To-day the percentage is 92, and gradually, as trade improves, we should not require to draw on the subsidy at all. Therefore, this subsidy differs from other subsidies in that, as trade improves, the subsidy will gradually disappear. The Government are also doing well, in my opinion, to leave the shipowners to run the scheme themselves. It is much better to leave them to work out their own salvation with the backing of the Government than to have too much interference from Government officials. The shipowners, by submitting a scheme which was in accord with the Government's view and establishing a Tramp Shipping Administration Committee, showed that they were fully alive to all that the Government had in view in restoring the industry to a healthy state.

I come now to a part of the Government's proposals which I am glad to see, as a child of my own, has grown so strong and healthy since I first had the honour of introducing it to the House two years ago. I refer, of course, to the scrapping and building programme. I know, and I say so quite openly in this Committee, that several of my ship-owning friends do not think so much of this proposal as I do, but I take a long view of the matter, and consider how it will benefit the country as a whole, apart altogether from the narrow question of how far it will benefit the shipowners alone. The original proposals presented to the House in July of this year contemplated scrapping and building, or modernising, on the basis of three to one. The Government have literally gone one better, for the proposal is now on a two-to-one basis, which makes it even more attractive to the shipowners. The basis of the original scheme has been considerably broadened, and, if that could have gone even further, I think it would have been better. I shall have something to say as to this in a few moments.

One new advantage from the scheme is that shipbuilders as well as shipowners will now be able to get the benefit of the scrapping and building policy, inasmuch as they will be able to buy foreign vessels, demolish them in this country and build new vessels, which will be all to the good. If these schemes can be started, I see every reason why shipowners should take advantage of them. It will mean a very great deal to the country, and especially to the distressed areas. The scheme visualises the building of 1,000,000 tons in two years, which, taking the average size of the vessels as 5,000 tons or so, will mean 200 ships altogether, or 100 in each year. The building of a vessel and its engines affords full employment to 500 men, so it means that 40,000 or 50,000 men will be employed, earning something like 26,000,000 to £7,000,000 in wages. In addition, there are all the anciliary trades that will benefit—coal, steel, engineering and so on. I wish rather to understate than overstate the case, but I think it will be found that my figures are pretty nearly correct. The scrapping of 500,000 tons a year will give employment to another 1,000 men, and the wages of these men will be at least £100,000, while there will be a corresponding saving in unemployment. benefit. On the other side of the picture there will be a saving of unemployment benefit, owing to the building of the vessels, of some £4,000,000. These figures will give the House a slight impression of how much the scheme, if successful, will benefit the country as a whole.

There is, however, a reservation in the Financial Resolution which I do not understand. The scrapping and building scheme is reserved for deep-sea tramps and coasters, or vessels trading say between the Elbe and Brest are excluded. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade, or whoever replies, why that should be so. If the scheme is good for one class of vessels, it should be good for another class. I would also point out one other thing. I may be wrong, but I think I am right. I might quite well adopt this scheme in this way. I could build a ship here and send it off in the Mediterranean trade, bring it back here, and later ply between the Elbe and Brest areas. It would be far better right away to open the door a little wider to allow vessels in this trade between the Elbe and the Brest areas to come within the subsidy. The coasting trade is also very much depressed. I know of many old second-hand vessels which would very well stand being scrapped to-day and their place taken by new vessels. Under paragraph 2 (a, iii) vessels may not be demolished outside the United Kingdom without the consent of the President of the Board of Trade. Why have those words in?

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)

The hon. Member has an Amendment down later on which I shall take, and which deals with this point. Perhaps he had better wait until that Amendment is reached.


Thank you, Captain Bourne. When we come to the salvage of vessels it shows that the Government are willing to consider shipowners and do anything possible to assist. One final word with regard to the financial state of tramp companies. It was touched upon a little by one speaker, but as there was an interjection from the other side of the House the other day I think it better to state the case. In 1929, 73 companies with £19,000,000 shares and debenture made a profit of £666,000 with depreciation of £1,125,000, so that there was really no profit. In 1932, 54 companies made a profit of £556,000 with depreciation 21,226,000 so that again there was no actual profit—indeed a huge loss. In 1933, 48 companies paid no dividend at all, 10 companies alone paying any dividend.

I would like to say a final word about employment. Several hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have suggested that the shipowners and the President of the Board of Trade have not in mind the creation of employment. Surely that is one of the first things we have been considering. It was certainly referred to by the President of the Board of Trade when I spoke in the Debate in July. I complimented the officers, engineers and crew, who were in the unfortunate position of being unemployed, on their general attitude. It has also been suggested that shipowners have been filling up ships with apprentices. That is not the case. I have been long enough in shipowning to know what the apprentices system is. We always carry apprentices, and of late with fewer sailing ships more apprentices have been going on steamers.


I would like the hon. Member to be perfectly clear. He heard my speech, and my accusation against certain companies which named. Does he contend that I was not telling the truth?


I was dealing with ship apprentices—not with engineering apprentices. The hon. Member, no doubt, knows his case, and it is nothing to do with me. I was dealing with deck hands particularly. The suggestion has also been made that sailors were hard pressed, and that they were asked to go into the stokehold and help there with the firing of the boilers. The suggestion that a steamer carrying too few stokers and firemen calls on sailors is not quite correct. This is nothing new. A deck hand helps below, and the stoker helps on deck in emergencies. For instance, when there is bad coal, all hands might be sent below to fire and help the steamer to port.

It has been suggested that this Resolution covers only the lowest type of shipping, simply because £10,000,000 is reserved for 1,000,000 tons. That amount is sufficient for the finest class of cargo steamer built. It is on the Tyne and the Wear in the North where this type of steamer is built but I will not develop that. As far as shipowners are concerned, they can get the best type of tramp steamer for £10 or well under, per ton. That completes all I want to say, except on behalf of the shipowning industry to thank the President of the Board of Trade for bringing in this Measure so soon after he promised. To say there is not complete harmony in the shipping industry would be wrong. It may be that some shipowners do not see alike with others on all points in the scheme, but, in the main, shipowners are quite united, and grateful to the Government and the Board of Trade for coming to their help.


Is the hon. Member prepared to use his influence as a shipowner to see that the cuts sustained by the men are restored?


I am.

7.7. p.m.

Colonel ROPNER

I do not think any speaker has attempted to deny the grievous plight in which the shipping industry finds itself to-day. Nor do I think it has even been suggested that the tramp section of that industry is not the most hard hit. It is not very many months ago since the President of the Board of Trade himself in more eloquent terms than I can command pointed out how close the whole industry was to bankruptcy. The position of shipping is no better to-day. World trade is still at a low level, and, what is in many respects infinitely more serious, the share which British shipping continues to obtain of world trade is growing ever less. I have seen statements in the Press during the last few months that fewer ships are tied up, and we have been led to infer from that statement that conditions in the shipping industry are improving, that these ships are running. That is not so. The reduction in the number of ships tied up is due to the fact that many more British ships have either been sold or scrapped. During the last few months British tramp shipping alone has been reduced in volume by just about 1,000,000 gross tons.

We are discussing primarily this afternoon proposals in connection with the grant of a £2,000,000 subsidy to tramp shipping. No one likes subsidies. I am perfectly certain that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not view with equanimity the idea of having to pay an additional £2,000,000 of public money. I know that the President of the Board of Trade does not favour, in principle, assistance being given to any industry through the medium of a subsidy. I remember that before the industry had been able to persuade the Government that this form of assistance was actually the only one possible, the President of the Board of Trade was adamant in his refusal even to consider such a grant. The shipping industry itself most certainly does not like to have to come to the Government and ask for a subsidy. Their whole tradition has been one of independence. We are not easily persuaded that it will be to our benefit to bow to any conditions that will have to be fulfilled before a subsidy is received. Equally certain, although the sympathy of the nation is behind shipping in its distressed condition to-day, the taxpayer in principle and quite naturally does not like the idea of assisting an industry by so direct a method. But we have found no alternative. The Board of Trade and shipowners have been searching for years to find a way of helping British shipping, but it has not been possible, in framing a short-term policy, to discover any alternative to a subsidy.

Before dealing with the White Paper, I should like quite briefly to try to meet some of the criticisms which have been levelled at the provisions of the Financial Resolution and the White Paper and against the shipping industry by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Perhaps the main criticism to which we have had to listen this afternoon has been that this is another case of buttressing up the system of private profit, to recall the words of the official Amendment to the Address last week. This is not the time to resume last week's Debate or argue the case for Capitalism against Socialism. But I do want to make this observation, that State Socialism can only succeed where it is possible to obtain a monopoly. State Socialism then succeeds because of the power a monopoly confers, and not because of new efficiency. It has never been possible for the Government of any country to obtain a monopoly in the shipping industry. I will go further and say that one of the chief causes of the depression has been the costly experiment by other nations in the State ownership of ships.


I would like to ask the hon. and gallant Member if it is not the case that the British Navy is owned by the Government, and if it is not run as efficiently as any shipping industry in this or any other country?

Colonel ROPNER

The British Navy is a complete monopoly of the British Government, and not in direct competition with the rest of the navies of the world, except, of course, in time of war. To support the case I am making I should like hon. Members opposite to listen for a moment while I read from the proceedings of the Shipping Policy Committee as expressed on 22nd June, 1932. The Shipping Policy Committee, which is not a political but an.industrial body, has emphatically expressed its opinion on State control. It is as follows: The appalling conditions to which the shipping industry has been reduced are mainly attributable to the direct and indirect action of Governments in bringing ships into existence for political and not commercial reasons and in persisting in the running of such ships at a heavy loss at the cost of the taxpayer. State-aided ships, like dumped goods, have no place in trade. They are a standing menace to the freight market and hamper the operations of all ships operating on an economic basis. If hon. Members opposite are still unconvinced that it would be a mistake to nationalise British shipping, let me give them three or four examples of what it has entailed in those countries where it has been tried, and let us examine the largely increased burdens which have been placed on the backs of taxpayers.


Is it not a fact that British shipowners have been selling ships to other Governments?

Colonel ROPNER

That is a different point, and, in any case, they have not been selling ships to Governments which run their own ships. I am dealing with the question of the nationalisation of shipping, and not the selling of ships to foreigners. Canada owned a certain number of ships which were run by the State. Ever since the inception of the Canadian Government merchant marine in 1923 those ships have been run at a loss. Last year it amounted to £3,000,000, to which must be added a capital loss of £20,000,000. Australia has lost well over £10,000,000 in trying to run State-owned ships. France has lost more than 2,000,000,000 francs and, of course, we have always the classic case of America which has lost no less than £600,000,000. Brazil and Portugal have on a smaller scale had somewhat similar experiences. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been given to subsidise State-owned ships, the money used not to buttress up private enterprise but to bolster up State Socialism. I have not the slightest doubt that, had British shipping been national- ised during the last three years, the State, that is the taxpayer, would have had to find very many millions of pounds to buttress up State-owned shipping. We are not concerned with the welfare of the foreign taxpayer, but we are decidedly concerned with the welfare of our basic industries. Shipping, shipbuilding, iron and steel, heavy engineering and coal are all suffering either directly or indirectly from the uneconomic competition of State-owned foreign ships.

Let us examine the experience of this country, where there has been no rash venture into the State management of ships, but where private enterprise has carried on since the termination of hostilities. In the first place, and to the credit of British shipping in face of competition on a national scale, there has been maintained by far the most efficient mercantile marine in the world, but in spite of this efficiency, in spite of the fact that our ships are better managed and more ably manned, during the last few years enormous losses have been made. Hon. Members opposite sometimes try to make us feel that it is sinful and shameful to make profits. I hope they believe that the opposite is true and that it is virtuous to have sustained heavy losses. If that he so, every shipowner in the country should be wearing a. halo of exceeding brightness to-day. Hundreds of millions of pounds were lost by British shipping before 1929, and even since that date some £100,000,000 has been lost. I have not the slightest doubt that that loss would have been much greater if the industry had been nationalised, and, what is much more important to remember, at lease in this House, is that if the industry had been nationalised the loss would have fallen on the taxpayers instead of on those who have invested their money in shipping, who no doubt have made profits in the past, but who for many years have been standing between the Exchequer and the taxpayer and constantly subsidising the industry in which they had invested their capital.


If we did nationalise our ships, by whom would they be manned?

Colonel ROPNER

I will come to the points in regard to foreign sailors in a moment. It is quite irrelevant to the point that I am making. But I should like to ask in return: Do hon. Members opposite really want to nationalise the shipping industry to-day? Do they think it would be good for the nation? If they do, they will put a very largely increased burden on the backs of the taxpayers. It may be that to-day shipowners are coming to the House and asking for £2,000,000, if you like to bolster private enterprise, although it is through no fault of their own but by reason of the action of other nations that they are having to make that request. If the industry is nationalised, it will not be a question of £2,000,000 but of £20,000,000 or £200,000,000 to bolster up the inefficient management which is bound to be the result of State ownership.

In speaking of the losses which shipowners have made recently, I am reminded of statements which I have heard with regard to the War profits of shipowners. I am certainly not going to deny that the profits of shipowners were large during the War, but I am certain that they are greatly over-estimated in the popular mind. No fleet was so completely controlled as was the British mercantile marine, no fleet suffered greater losses, and, where profits were high, a very large percentage of the profits was taken through Excess Profit Duty. Even in spite of those restrictions and that high taxation, there is no doubt that those who sold their fleets at the boom period that followed the War sold out at enormous figures. They finished with the industry. But the story is very different in the case of those who not only hung on to what ships remained but made some effort to replace ships that had been lost. Long ago, any profits that were made during the War have gone. Many shipping firms which were in business have gone bankrupt during the last few years, and I do not believe that there is any shipping firm in existence which is any better as the result of large profits made during the War. Their position would be infinitely better to-day if they had been able to go on at the level of profits which they were making from 1900 to 1914, and there had been no disturbing influence of either War, the boom period or the slump that followed.

With regard to the question of wages, as in the case of coal, British shipowners are open to the competition of the world, and, however much we may desire to raise wages, it would actually be a fatal policy to the wage earners themselves if we raised them beyond a certain level. It is always possible to argue that whatever level you reach is either too high or too low, but I can assure the House, and hon. Members opposite in particular, that, allowing for differences in the value of exchange, the British rate of wage is the highest in the world, and, even when exchanges are not taken into account, there are only two nations, neither of which has a mercantile marine anything like as large as we have, which pay higher wages. There is a very large number of nations which pay wages less than half those paid to British seamen. This £2,000,000 will not bring great wealth to tramp shipowners. The National Maritime Board for the last 15 years has worked in a splendid spirit of mutual conciliation, and the House may rest assured that this wage fixing machinery, which has worked so well in the past, will work equally well in the future.

I hoped that when the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) spoke he would give me instances, as he promised, which would give some foundation in fact for the ridiculous statements made in the circular which I received this morning. It was sent by the Trade Union Parliamentary Committee to the shipping and water-side industries. To read it, you would think that the conditions on British ships were intolerable both for sailors and firemen, that their work was nothing more nor less than sweated labour, that men on board every British ship lived in pigsties. That simply is not true. The conditions on British ships in every respect are second to none in the world. I am not going to say that a ship built 30 years ago but still running comes up to present day standards. It does not any more than houses built 300 years ago come up to present standards. The sentences to which I should like to draw the attention of the House are that the decisions of the National Maritime Board are being flouted. If they are being flouted, it is the duty of hon. Members opposite, if they know of actual cases, to give the widest publicity to those cases. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) coming here and making general statements of this sort. It says that alien seamen in great numbers are being employed. I have looked up the figures, and I find the alien seamen who are employed are.actually 2 per cent. of the whole and that this figure includes foreign stewards which owners are forced to take on board some ships which carry emigrants; for instance, from Europe to the United States. That figure also includes alien seamen on ships working permanently in the Far East where all other British firms, not only shipping firms but firms operating on land, employ a certain number of foreigners. Where a ship is working between Hong Kong and Shanghai for its whole working life a certain number of Chinamen are included in the crew. I am bound to say that this is something of which I have very little experience. Every case quoted this afternoon has been the case of a, liner, and, in point of fact, none of the provisions affect liners in any way. If there are any allegations of breaking agreements in connection with granting a subsidy to tramp shipping, it would be better if the faults on the part of tramp owners and not liner owners were brought before the House. This document also says: While many vessels are seriously undermanned, the accommodation provided is frequently of the meanest. Those are points with which I have tried very briefly to deal, and neither statement is generally true. The more publicity that can be obtained for the cases which are true the better. I can assure the House that it is the constant desire of shipowners, consistent with the present state of affairs when very heavy losses are being sustained, to build as comfortable ships, to give as good a rate of victualling and to pay as high a rate of wages as is possible.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman read the fourth paragraph down where it says that in the case of the shipping industry there is ample evidence and also where it refers to the trades union for the shipping and waterways industries and will he look at the two signatures. Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate for the Opposition to-day made the definite statement that if any hon. Member in the House wanted evidence he would produce it?

Colonel ROPNER

I am not quite sure why I have been interrupted.


It was just to correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Colonel ROPNER

The statement which the hon. Member read out is the sort of which I am complaining—a general statement without anything to substantiate it. Of course, I remember the right Lon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield saying that he could produce cases. I think that he found Le had not time to do it before he sat down. I remember that the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs said that he would do what the right Lon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite had failed to do and bring specific charges against individual owners. He did not do it either. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, he did!"] Against two liner companies which are not being assisted by any provisions of the Bill. Even if they were, the charges are of so general a nature that they really lent very little value to his comments. I am sincere in asking that where there is anything wrong every publicity should be given to it and that both sides of this House should join in attempting to have the matter put right.

I turn to the provisions of the Financial Resolution and to the White Paper. Although later on in my speech I shall be glad to take the opportunity of expressing the very great gratitude of the shipping industry to the Government for the action which they are taking, I would once again condemn the scrap and build policy which is included in the White Paper. Almost everything that can he said about scrap and build has been said. Upon the last occasion that I raised this matter I asked the President of the Board of Trade to say if the scrap and build programme was primarily designed to assist the distressed areas. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply, asked why the Government should not make every effort to assist distressed areas. My answer to that, if I had had a chance of replying, would have been that there is no earthly reason why the Government should not. try and assist distressed areas, but that. I was sorry that the proposal to scrap and build was included in a White Paper which is ostensibly for the assistance of shipping. If it be right to scrap, it is not right to build. If one be right, the other must be wrong. In so far as it is encouraging building it is the Trade Facilities Act all over again, and in so far as it is an encouragement to scrap it is surrendering to the demand which is being made upon British tonnage by subsidised foreign tonnage that we should shrink in numbers in comparison with the rest of the world.

I am certainly not going to oppose any Measure of the Government which in their opinion will assist distressed areas, but I am sorry that the general public and, perhaps what is more important, even other nations should think that the extent of Government assistance to British shipping is £21,000,000 and not actually the £2,000,000 which will be of real value to us. The sum of £9,000,000 is being loaned to the White Star-Cunard Company—and £10,000,000 is available in the form of loans to carry out a scrap and build programme which no member of the shipping industry wants except perhaps the hon. Gentleman who originated the idea two years ago. I have yet to meet a shipowner who really wants "scrap and build," but in the view of the public and of other nations there is another £10,000,000 to be given to the shipping industry. Then, of course, there is the £2,000,000 which comes in the form of a subsidy. I repeat that of that £21,000,000, only £2,000,000 will really be of the slightest value to the tramp section of the shipping industry.

As I have said before, when the conditions have arrived which make it right that ships should be built, the industry itself will build all that are necessary. If that condition has not yet arrived, then it is wrong to build the ships, and it is wrong to encourage the building of the ships. I was delighted to hear the President of the Board of Trade say that already he had noticed an increased demand for ships during the last few months. But scrap and build is not in operation. The increased demand for tramp ships to be built has come because shipowners believe that the Government are to carry out a courageous policy which will bring a chance of some little profit being made in tramp shipping. It is because owners believe it to be an economically sound proposition that we are witnessing an increasing demand for tramp tonnage.

I come to a much more difficult aspect of the subsidy question. I am myself, as the House will appreciate, a shipowner. I am steeped in the theory of shipowning. During the whole of the summer I with others have been engaged in constant negotiations with the Board of Trade and in constant committee work endeavouring to thrash out a policy which would be in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Government. Therefore, it may be that for the next five minutes I shall not be able to make myself clear to those hon. Members who do me the honour of listening to me. I cannot draw the complete picture, and shall only have time to remark on general principles.

I want to ask the Government these questions: For what purpose are they giving the subsidy to tramp shipping? Do they regard it as oxygen or as poison gas? Is it defensive or offensive Is it £2,000,000 worth of oxygen to be pumped into the lungs of dying shipping to bring new life, or is it £2,000,000 of poison gas to let off in the faces of our foreign competitors who are using that weapon against us? I am not asking this question for no purpose. The answer to it will make a very great difference to the attitude which will be taken up by both committees which are to be set up under the Financial Resolution and the Bill. Eventually the answer to this question will determine whether the Government assist cargo liners or not. On 3rd July of this year the President of the Board of Trade laid down two conditions which he said had to be fulfilled before the Government could grant a subsidy to British shipping.

The President of the Board of Trade this afternoon said that the industry regarded those conditions as hard. We did not; we regarded them as impossible to fulfil for the reason that they were, in the opinion of some of us then, and I believe in the opinion of the whole industry now, directly contradictory. I do not believe that the President of the Board of Trade or his Department have been told this before. It was not considered tactful, but the time for plain speaking has now arrived. The industry still does not know for what purpose we are supposed to use the subsidy. The Government have never been made to say and have never even been asked the purpose for which the subsidy is to be used, and I very much doubt if they have any clear idea for which of the two alternative purposes they really wish the subsidy to be used. I have said that the answer to this question is of great practical importance not only to the industry but to the Government. It will determine the methods by which the Statutory Committee and the Advisory Committee hope to assist the industry, and it will eventually determine what action, if any, the Government will take to protect cargo liners.

In view of the acceptance of the shipowners' proposals, it would be as well if the Government were to admit, straight away, that at least it is possible that some of the subsidy may be dissipated and that there may be a reduction of rates. For that reason, I feel certain that it would be wise of the Government to admit the claim of the cargo liners, which has been voiced in more than one speech to-night. The sum for which they are asking is negligible in comparison with the subsidies which are being given to a great number of industries. If there has been trouble in arriving at a unanimous opinion among shipowners during the past year as to what will benefit the shipping industry, that trouble will be as nothing compared to the trouble which the Board of Trade are laying up for themselves unless the cargo liners have an assurance that the assistance to the tramp shipping industry will not damage them. Tramp owners know that no such assurance can be given. The condition which it is impossible to fulfil if tramp shipping is to benefit is this To prevent as far as possible the subsidy from being dissipated by the domestic competition of British ships carrying tramp cargo. Those who hope to fulfil that condition say that to-day freights are low and that the industry is practically bankrupt. "We will," they say, "minimise domestic competition, improve freight rates and conditions, promote organised co-operation among owners to maintain and improve freights, and recommend such conditions of charter as in our discretion we think fit." It is useless for shipowners to believe that by the action of British shipowners alone you can do anything to raise or even to maintain rates. It was suggested at one time that you might even give a dole to ships to lie up. It is like the payment for not growing hogs—the scheme suggested by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). It was suggested that if you did not pay ships to lie up, at least you should make it compulsory that British ships should be laid up, and that in every opportunity should be taken to maintain rates of freight, and, if possible, to raise them solely by the action of British shipowners. In other words, the subsidy was to be used as oxygen to bring new life and strength to a dying industry.

There is no mention in any of the sentences which I have read of foreign corn-petition. Everything done along those lines would be undone by the benefit which you would bring to some foreign competitor. For every British ship that is laid up a foreign ship will pop out of harbour. If you scrap a British ship it is probable that an order will be given for the building of a foreign ship. To-day, and rightly, the vast majority of shipowners say, in effect: "It is true that freights are low, but what is worse is that we are being undercut in the markets of the world. Therefore, the use to which we are going to put the subsidy is to ensure that it is effectively directed towards securing the greater employment of British tramp shipping at the expense of foreign subsidised shipping." The British Mercantile Marine is still the most efficient in the world, is still the strongest in point of numbers, but it is being slowly strangled and suffocated by the poison gas of foreign subsidies. Let us use against those nations the same weapon that is being used against us. Let us try for all we are worth to wreck the wreckers. If it be necessary—I believe it will not be—to use the whole of the subsidy for the reduction of rates, I would advocate that that course be taken. When the Italians or the French give a subsidy they do not ask whether or not it is dissipated. They only make certain that more Italian or more French ships are carrying the cargoes of the world. It will be the natural instinct of British shipowners to retain what they can of the subsidy, but wherever necessary they will reduce rates in order that some British ship, manned by British hands, may be employed, instead of an Italian or a French ship, with Italians and Frenchmen on board.

During the last year or so there have been grave differences of opinion between the Government and shipowners, between cargo liners and tramp owners, and even between tramp owners themselves. Those differences are almost completely reconciled to-day. After months of work we have, speaking for the tramp owners, unanimously evolved the scheme which is before the House, and I should like to pay my tribute to the immense patience and skill with which the officials of the Board of Trade have conducted negotiations on behalf of the Government. If I may take this opportunity I should like publicly to thank the men who have worked for the shipping industry. I should like to say what a deep debt of gratitude the tramp owners owe to Sir Vernon Thomson, who has been chairman of the Tramp Owners' Committee, and who, with a firm and wise hand, has ruled that committee most ably. Perhaps I myself have not been one of the least refractory members of the committee. I should like also to express thanks for the assistance which tramp owners have received from Lord Essendon, who represented the London liners. We are to all intents and purposes a united industry to-day, but that unity will assuredly be disrupted if the Government in the near future are not able or willing to meet the natural and just claim of the cargo liners. It is impossible to ensure that the cargo liners will not be damaged to a certain extent, and to at least the extent of that damage the cargo liners should be assisted.

Let me deal briefly with the international aspect of the matter. As I have said, rationalisation by this nation alone is useless. It is not only impossible to rationalise a world-wide shipping industry by reducing only the amount of British tonnage, but it would be fatal to the best interests of the industry to try. If we get international agreement we can get real prosperity in the industry without any sort of assistance. Meanwhile, the greater the subsidy which is given to British shipping by the Government and the more determined the attitude which the Government take up the sooner are we likely to get that international agreement which will lead to international rationalisation. At the World Economic Conference some months ago we could not get any other nation even to think about the rationalisation of shipping. There are, however, welcome signs to-day that more than one nation is prepared to talk of rationalisation in the shipping world. Whether that time comes soon or late shipping will shortly be one industry in the long and lengthening list which have virtually been saved from extinction by the National Government. It is not only the thousands of employers in those industries, not only the tens of thousands of black-coated workers but also the millions of wage earners who should be and I believe are grateful to the National Government.

7.57 p.m.


I was wondering when the hon. and gallant Member was going to conclude. He started at 6.47 p.m., and he has taken nearly an hour and a quarter to deliver a speech that certainly could have been condensed into a matter of 15 minutes.

Colonel ROPNER



1 do not intend to take up the time of the House to any extent. Time and again Members of this House are offenders in this respect. The right hon. and learned Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Horne) is a frequent offender. He makes very long speeches. This Rudolf Valentino from Hillhead might well condense his speeches into much shorter space. Instead of lecturing the House he might give his suggestions briefly, and make way for other hon. Members who are in the Chamber.


The hon. Member has made a violent attack on my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner). He did not start at 6.47 p.m. but at 7.10 p.m.


The lion. and gallant Member said that he had been engaged in discussions with the President of the Board of Trade during the whole of the summer. If his discussions were anything like his speech to-night, I wonder that he did not take the whole of the winter as well. I can only say this in regard to his speech, that he was very honest in his statements. He did not talk as a Member of Parliament, representing a constituency in this country. He is like a large number of people in this Chamber who talk as interested persons who welcome subsidies that are being diverted into their own pockets. He spoke honestly as a shipowner and said that the shipowners did not welcome the £10,000,000 that were being placed by the Government at the disposal of the shipping industry for scrapping and rebuilding. He welcomed the £2,000,000 subsidy. Like other owners, including the right hon. Member for Hillhead, he spoke as if the £2,000,000 was a small amount to be given to the industry, and that it would not have the effect that might naturally be expected.

Judging from the discussion that has gone on to-night from shipowners and other interested persons, I suppose that they would welcome the £10,000,000 as subsidy for tramp shipping and the £2,000,000 for scrapping and rebuilding, because in every speech they have welcomed the subsidy but deprecated the idea of scrapping and rebuilding. There is no use in Members coming to this House and saying, "This subsidy will enable us to call an international conference so that we can get rid of subsidies entirely, because foreign Governments will recognise that the full weight of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the country is behind the shipping industry, and therefore they will call a halt." That was the argument that was used by the President of the Board of Trade when tariffs were introduced in this country. Tariffs were being introduced only in order to call an international conference to get rid of tariffs. Now the same argument is used in the case of this Bill. We are going to call an international conference to ask foreigners to assist our shipowners to get into a more favourable position for carrying the world's trade.

The whole thing to me is a huge joke. The people who are attempting to put that across the country either have very little intelligence or pay very little attention to the intelligence of the people of the country. It is a spectacle like that of the representatives of the nations now sitting at Geneva trying to make the people of the world believe that they are attempting to bring about disarmament. Let us he quite frank. This subsidy of £2,000,000 is only the beginning. It is the thin end of the wedge. Capitalism is gradually declining, and the shipping industry is bound to come to this House during that period of decline to say that the £2,000,000 has made very little change, because foreign Governments have increased the amount of their subsidy in order to place their shipowners in a more favourable position, and therefore an increased subsidy must be given in this country. The argument put forward here to-night is that in order to take the workers off the dole you have got to put the shipowners on the dole. The hon. Member who spoke last gave us about 20 minutes of an attack on Socialism. One would think that it was Socialism that was in the dock. Really it is capitalism that is in the dock. It is capitalism, with its inefficiency and its inability to function, that is continually coming to this House for Poor Law relief in order to help it to compete with its rivals in other parts of the world.

Every capitalist industry in this country is in the same position. We go to the workers who are unemployed and reduce their standard of living by applying a means test in order to save money to give to the shipowners, to give to the farmers, to give to people in capitalist industry throughout the country. You have to recognise that Socialism is certainly not on trial in this House. Socialism is not on trial in the country. When the argument is proclaimed by hon. Members that Capitalism can compete on favourable terms with State Socialism, it only means that Capitalism can manage to eke out an existence by reducing the standards of life of the people to a level that State Socialism would never attempt. That is all it means, and it is time we recognised it. When hon. Members come to the House speaking as shipowners they are, in my estimation, guilty of a fraudulent act. They attempt to make the people of the country believe, when they are trying to get into the House, that they are anxious to represent the people, and then when they get here we find that they only represent petty capital interests in the country.

It is a disgraceful thing to see one after another getting up and saying that shipowners thank the President of the Board of Trade for giving them £2,000,000. Some of them, it seemed to me, were almost on the point of refusing it because it was so small. At any rate, they practically said: "Well, it is not much, this £2,000,000, but it will help to go on with." What is the reason for the decline in shipping? People go on saying that we will restore the old country to its former place, and that we will recover the world's trade. That is the same old jargon that is being repeated in every House of Deputies throughout the world. They have all the same old tale, in a period of declining capitalism, that they will restore the old ship of State to prosperity.

Let me say, in passing, that we see month after month complete evidence that the Prime Minister has quite given over any attempt to make people believe that he has any sympathy with working class ideals in any shape or form. Where he spends his time I do not know, but he is never in the House, and pays no attention to the House. It is a most disgraceful proceeding. We all know, if rumour is to be credited, that he feels much more at home with the Duchesses than with Members of the House. The President of the Board of Trade comes along to this House pioneering all those Bills that he formerly condemned on every platform in the country. He has thrown over every vestige of Liberalism. He is simply the Tory hack in this House pioneering capitalist schemes of reconstruction and salvage. He says "This is a salvage Act." Mr. Montagu Norman is the chief salvage officer in finance, and he is the salvage officer in this House trying to reclaim industry in a declining state of capitalism.

You have applied tariffs to keep out goods, you have applied quotas and restrictions, and you cannot expect to be carrying the goods you have kept out by tariffs. You are stimulating home production, and you are determined that more and more, as time goes on, you do not intend to carry goods from across the seas into this country. Why, then, grumble about the decline in British shipping and in the carrying trade of the world? Let us recognise that there is only one thing constant in the universe, and that is change. Change is taking place every day. If you hope to keep pace with the decline of the present order, you will require to make it a criminal offence for anyone to attempt to perfect any machine in this country in order to increase the productivity of the people; you will require to prevent any change taking place in the machine age and you will require to attempt to prevent other countries from developing their industries. At one time you carried coal all over the world; you carried goods all over the world; you carried railway rolling stock to every country in the world. But to-day every country in the world is establishing its own factories, producing its own goods. The carrying trade is declining. Added to that every country has been developing and increasing its own shipping industry.

With that development going on throughout the world, in an age of change and scientific invention, in a declining state of capitalism, how can you hope to compete more favourably and get a greater ratio of trade in this country? Time and again in this House, on platforms throughout the country, and over the wireless we hear politicians say "We are doing a great work. We see a light at the end of the tunnel, the sun is peeping over the hills, clouds are being dispelled, the ship of State is coming safely into harbour, the old British flag is flying proudly over our industries, the National Government have brought great recovery." It is all meaningless jargon, and it is repeated in every part of the world. I say that this subsidy to the shipping industry is a beginning and, that it will require to be increased as the capitalist system declines and the carrying trade in consequence declines.

We have got to realise that if we vote for this £2,000,000 subsidy to shipping, we are putting the shipowners on able-bodied relief which will continue as long as capitalism continues. The cotton magnates must come for subsidies, coalowners must come for subsidies, farmers must come for subsidies. Every section of industry must come to be put on the dole. We shall live in this country, in the capitalist world, by putting every person on the dole. Shipowners say that they do not like the idea of taking this £2,000,000. No man who is on Poor Law relief or getting an allowance through the Employment Exchange likes to be drawing relief. He would like to have employment. I can understand that shipowners would like to be drawing the great profits that they have drawn out of industry in the past. We realise that they would like to be taking the great profits they took during the War. We have been told by the hon. Member for the Hill-head Division and others of the great amount of money lost, the many millions lost—£60,000,000, £70,000,000, even £100,000,000 lost in the shipping industry.

Evidently the shipping industry is living on its losses. One would think that there had never been any profits at all. But the shipping industry has taken a tremendous amount of profit. Shipowners in this country have died leaving fabulous fortunes that certainly were never created by their.own energies. Out of the exploitation of Asiatic labour in the ships, out of the unpaid wages of the workers in the industry, they have drawn these profits. I want to say to the Minister that as far as I am concerned—he need not sharpen the point of his pencil. I have no questions to ask; I know all the answers—I realise that he is simply the spokesman and mouthpiece of a declining capitalist order, that he comes here to obey the instructions of those who represent the system, the bankers and capitalists. But that system is bound to decline and these doles are bound to be extended. If a vote is taken, I shall go into the Lobby to vote against the grant of this £2,000,000, because if there is a question of putting people on the dole I prefer that they should be those who are honestly desirous of honest work in this country rather than those who are parasites and idlers who have exploited the wealth of the nation in the past.

8.14 p.m.


I desire to move, in line 6, after "thirty-five," to insert: but such committee shall not recommend any payment which would be to the detriment of any other section of the industry. I do not propose in any part of what I have to say to follow the line taken by the hon. Member who spoke last. There is one thing I would like to say at once to him and to the House, and that is that, speaking as I shall do in favour of the subsidy, I do so as one who has not a penny of interest in any ship in this country. I speak solely in the public interest in regard to what is an essential and vital part of the life of this country. I do feel that one has to look at it in that way. Hon. Members may be rather weary with a long Debate, but I think we must bear in mind the vital importance of shipping to this country. Where would we be if we had no shipping?


May I put a question for the sake of getting information? I take it that a discussion on the general question will be closed after the Amendment has been moved?

8.16 p.m.


The Debate is not closed, but until the Amendment is -disposed of the discussion is confined to the Amendment. When the Amendment is disposed of the original Question is still before the Committee.


I understand that the Debate on the Resolution is to finish at 10 o'clock, so that any discussion between now and that hour will have to be confined to the Amendment?


I have no knowledge of the importance which is now attached to 10 o'clock. My duty is to conduct the Debate according to the Rules of the House, and, if hon. Members arrange among themselves to finish the Debate at 10 o'clock, that is no business of mine. The moment the Amendment is moved, accepted and put from the Chair, the discussion is confined to the Amendment, and when it has been disposed of the original Question is again before the Committee.


But once the Amendment has been accepted and has become the subject of discussion, it is impossible for the Committee to put any limit to the time during which the discussion shall take place. At a late hour last night there was considerable discussion across the Floor of the House as to the procedure of to-day's Debate, and hon. Members who agreed to the arrangement which was then reached believed that the larger proportion of the time up to 10 o'clock would be available for a general discussion on the shipping subsidy, without any limitation imposed by a particular Amendment. While I accept your Ruling that the Committee as soon as the Amendment is disposed of can revert to the original Question, yet I think it is within your power to decide whether a particular Amendment shall be called, and I would suggest for your consideration that as the general Debate has only lasted for a limited period of time, and that there are hon. Members, of whom I am not one, who desire to speak on it—


The hon. Member can raise a point of Order but he must not make a speech. I would point out that the Debate has been going on for over five hours on the general Question, and I have no reason to suppose that the Amendment is likely to take a long time. However, that is not in my hands.


The general Debate commenced about twenty minutes to four, and we are now faced with an Amendment which will stop the general discussion. It is the usual order of procedure for a representative of the Government to reply to the general Debate, and he has not done so yet.


We cannot really have a discussion on procedure at the moment. I want to assist hon. Members as far as I can. The calling of the Amendment does not put an end to the Debate. As I have said, I have no knowledge of the Debate having to be terminated at a particular time, but, if the Amendment is not likely to take very long, or however long it takes, whether it is five minutes or five hours, as soon as it is disposed of the Committee can revert to the original Question, either amended or not as the case may be. There is not the slightest idea on my part, nor have I the power, to shut out any reply by the Government or the Leader of the Opposition. The usual course is to take an Amendment and discuss it, and postpone the main speeches in reply to the original Question until after the Amendment has been disposed of.


Is it not within your province to decide at what time you will permit the general debate to cease and Amendments to be taken?


The hon. Member is not correct. It is not in my power to decide when a debate shall come to an end. If I call an hon. Member to move an Amendment, which I accept, then until it has been disposed of the discussion is confined to that Amendment. When it is disposed of, as I have already said, the original Question comes before the Committee again. I have no power to curtail debate, and no intention of doing so.

8.22 p.m.


I do not propose to detain the Committee longer than I can possibly help on the Amendment, and possibly when hon. Members have heard what I have to say on it they will realise that it is germane to the whole debate and does not side-track the real issues before the Committee. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, and the permission of the Committee, I should like to move the Amendment in a somewhat different form and in a somewhat different place. I would like to move it in this way: In line 21, at the end, to insert or if in the opinion of the said committee any such payment would be to the detriment of any other section of the industry.


May I draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member now proposes to move an Amendment which is not on the Order Paper, and I should like to know whether you propose to accept it?


I myself suggested to the hon. and gallant Member that it would read better if the Amendment was slightly altered and moved in a slightly different place.


I beg to move, in line 21, at the end, to insert: or if in the opinion of the said committee any such payment would be to the detriment of any other section of the industry. I hope that now I shall be able to deal with the Amendment as rapidly as possible. Hon. Members will see at once what is in my mind, and in the minds of those hon. Members whose names are attached to the Amendment. We desire that the terms in the White Paper shall be clearly brought out—namely: That the intention is to prevent as far as possible the subsidy from being dissipated by the domestic competition of British ships carrying tramp cargoes, and ensure that it is effectively directed to securing the greater employment, of British tramp shipping at the expense of foreign subsidised Shipping. The general question has been discussed at some length and except in one case there has been no serious objection to the proposal. It is important to realise the vital issue involved in this question. It has been brought out in several of the speeches to-night, the vital issue is that a subsidy to the tramp section of shipping is undoubtedly, unless it is carefully safeguarded, rather a menace to another section of the industry. The right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) in disposing of my Amendment before I had moved it, tried to show that the effect of it would be to make the whole subsidy unworkable. If that were the case it only shows what the paragraph I have read has not provided for. My object is to have it directly known from the Government whether or not these matters are properly provided for.

The first trouble of shipping generally to-day is that there is from 60 to 70 per cent. more carrying capacity than there was in 1914, and that the amount to be carried is three or four per cent. less than it was in 1914. That shows a terrific overplus in the carrying tonnage of the world. When you apply the test to the British side of the tonnage you find that British tonnage has not increased. Consequently there is an enormous reduction in the British share of carrying tonnage. As there is the same amount to be carried it follows of necessity that British shipping is bound to carry less and will suffer very much in that way. If on top of that it is found that foreign countries are spending a large amount of their taxpayers' money in subsidising their shipping to enable them to compete with British shipping under these conditions, it must be realised why it is that the tramp shipping of to-day, and indeed British shipping generally to-day, is suffering. It is a demonstrable position about which no one can argue.

What is the proposed remedy? As far as tramp shipping is concerned it is that it should have a subsidy. The first question raised is, What are tramp cargoes under tramp conditions Does it mean that they carry only in chartered bottoms? We should get that clearly stated. I speak specially for the cargo liners, for the Port of Liverpool is entirely a cargo liner port. What is clear is that the cargo liners are bound to suffer very materially from this subsidy if the competition is not carefully watched, because, although they are liners, they carry a great deal of cargo in competition with British and foreign tramps. You find that particularly on homeward voyages. It varies from season to season of the year and in different parts of the world. But the liner is on a fixed route and has to start its voyage at regular times. Therefore it has a different kind of trade from that of the tramp, in the sense that the tramp can go anywhere in any part of the world and sail at any time or not sail for a considerable time. Liners have to sail at fixed times and they are prepared to take cargo. At one time the tramps used to take a great deal of the surplus cargo, but it is not the same to-day. Here is a liner which is prepared to take a lot of cargo, but not on tramp terms. If you are to have a subsidy of the tramp and rates go down, the liner which is running a regular service will have to take whatever comes along at whatever rate it can get. Therefore there is very grave danger of these liners suffering materially from the subsidy. I am talking, of course, of the class of cargo carried in common by both sections of the industry.

There is no doubt from what has been said to-day that the general feeling is that rates will be reduced. Indeed shippers are hanging back and looking forward to a reduction in rates. If rates are reduced on tramp shipping the cargo liners will suffer a similar reduction-Therefore the matter has to be very carefully watched. What has been put forward has been that for certain liners £500,000 should be allowed, to satisfy their claim. Other liners are not at all satisfied with that amount. They think that the proper thing to do is for the scheme to be worked as best it can in the interests of the country as a whole, and if it is proved that that particular type of shipping has been suffering at the expense of the other, the loss should be made good. It might be £500,000 or £1,000,000.

We have talked of subsidies, and we know that there are such things even in this country in certain industries, but I have never heard yet of one section of an industry being subsidised at the expense of, or so as to cause injury to, another section of the same industry. I am sure that the Government have no intention of doing that. I speak not only for my Liverpool shipowning friends but for the whole shipping community of the country when. I say that we realise that the Government have considered this matter and have no intention, if they can avoid it, of allowing one section of the industry to be injured.

There are two possible alternatives. One is outlined in this Amendment, and it is that the Advisory Committee should not advise any subsidy where it is going to affect other British shipping. We have not yet heard what is to be the constitution of this Statutory Advisory Commitee. We know from the White Paper what is the make-up of the committee that is to administer the subsidy. That is a perfectly sound thing, but until the President of the Board of Trade tells us we shall not know what the constitution of the Statutory Committee is to be. If it is going to have the serious responsibility of advising whether or not there is going to be injury to other sides of shipping it must be a committee that is not impregnated with any one particular side.


That is just one of the matters which, as it is not dealt with in the Resolution, cannot be dealt with in the Debate on this Amendment. The hon. Member must wait until we get the Bill.


Thank you. I will await the Bill with interest. I come back to this point: Whatever provisions the Government may think fit to make this financial provision does not explain it. Whatever they suggest, I submit that one of two alternatives should be adopted. There is the one that is in the Amendment I have proposed. It is putting a big burden, I admit, on the Advisory Committee and on the Government. Otherwise, they will consider the loss that any other portion of the industry sustains and be prepared to give reasonable compensation to it also.

8.35 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for the West Derby Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Sandeman Allen) has most cogently put the points which have led up to the Amendment, and I shall therefore content myself with formally seconding it.

8.36 p.m.


The object which my hon. Friends have in view is, I understand, the safeguarding of the interests of the cargo liners, in case, owing to the administration of the subsidy, any injury should be done to them. If I, therefore, clearly understand what is required by my hon. Friends, if they could have their own way, it would amount to this: They do not ask for any special privilege to be given to the cargo liners or for any exact assessment of their needs. Indeed, as far as I know there has been no exact assessment of their needs. It is still more difficult to say exactly what would be the amount of harm done to them if they should suffer by the working of the scheme. I have never taken the view that harm might not be done. I have always said, as I said this afternoon, that we are in an experimental stage and that it is difficult for us to foresee exactly how some of these things will work out. I know that some of my hon. Friends, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner), have very great knowledge of these matters. He stated that he knew what was going to happen, but I also know something about them, and I feel diffident in laying down the law on the subject.

I think that what will meet the case is briefly this: We have all along seen the risk of this scheme being so administered as to be for the benefit of one section and the detriment of another. How can we meet that? There are two facts which I should like my hon. Friends to keep in mind. The first is that the administration of the subsidy will be effected by the activities of two committees, the Tramp Shipping Administrative Committee and the Statutory Committee. In both cases part of the conditions of the grant, which they will have to observe and will no doubt have in mind, is that owners shall co-operate. If they will look at page 9 of the White Paper, the Committee will observe that we have provided, under the heading "Functions and methods," as follows: It is proposed that the functions of the Tramp Shipping Administrative Committee should include the following— Observe that we put in the very forefront co-operation among owners in general.

(a) to promote organised co-operation among owners to maintain and improve freights and by such organised co-operation to promote their interests generally. If that is carried out, it means that there will be regulated and not unregulated competition. The danger from which the cargo liners suffer at the present moment is simply this, that while running regularly on the berth, to use a technical term, they may find that a tramp comes along, apparently out of nowhere—perhaps he has made a bad voyage and been redirected by the wire- less to, say, Rangoon—and takes out of the very mouths of the cargo liner people rice which would normally come home in their ships. That is what happens under the present unregulated competition. I do not see any way of meeting the case as between the two sections except by regulated competition and regulated cooperation, and it is that that we intend to provide under the first of the three instructions which are given to the committee.

Lieut.-Colonel SANDEMAN ALLEN:

Does the right hon. Gentleman mean liner owners, or tramp owners, or steam-ship owners, when he talks of owners?


I mean all steamship owners. IE they do not work together, they will not be carrying out the general instructions provided, and I need hardly point out that unless the conditions laid down in the White Paper are complied with, it is certain that the subsidy will not be given, because this is a subsidy on conditions. Just before I left the House a little while ago, I heard one of my hon. Friends speaking of the subsidy as though it could be claimed without conditions attached. I have never made that mistake, and I do not think the House or the Committee has made that mistake. We cannot make grants with out conditions being attached, and this is one of the prime conditions. It is the only way that I can see in the organisation of the industry by which we can obtain some of the ends which we are seeking to obtain.


Will tramp ships "coming from nowhere," as the right hon. Gentleman says, be regarded as indulging in a mild form of piracy, and have that particular voyage wiped out so far as a subsidy is concerned under the new scheme?


They come from nowhere at present, and before they would be able to claim any subsidy they would have to satisfy the statutory conditions under which alone the subsidy is granted, and therefore there would be no appearance out of the blue in the old sense. They would have to comply with the conditions and make a disclosure of the terms under which they were working.


My right hon. Friend is, I am afraid, sealing the fate of the British tramp as known to-day. His statement is quite all right, but the fact that the British tramp is not to be allowed to come out of the blue in order to pick the occasional plums from the liner, which is the one hope we have today of being able to do something, creates a very serious position. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he considers the past method a bad method, and I think we should be clear on the subject. It is a very great change of principle for tramp tonnage.


My hon. Friend has knowledge of these matters, and I gather indeed that he has much enjoyed, on occasions in the past, taking plums out of the mouths of the cargo owners. I was describing the conditions under which the cargo liners and tramps would in future operate. I do not think the power to go everywhere will be withdrawn from the tramps. Far from it. When they do go, they will not go on the basis of unregulated competition. I can imagine, for instance—I do not want to go into the region of prophecy—it being possible for an owner and the administrative committee between them to decide that no flooding of a trade by a surplus of tonnage should, as far as is avoidable, be allowed. This has often happened, and the result has been in the past that a good deal of money has been lost to British shipping as a whole. I ask my hon. Friends to let us see how this will work. We are making a great experiment, and, if it does not work, well we shall have to modify our methods. If it is found possible to assess the damage that is done to cargo liners, if any damage is done, it will be necessary to revise the conditions under which we are at present wishing to regulate competition and co-operation. If my hon. Friends will be satisfied with that, which is the best I can offer at the moment, they will see that we do not intend to sacrifice the interests of any one section to another.


I want to ask the Minister a question on behalf of the workers who will be involved. The Government have met all the demands that have been put forward by the different sections of shipowners and will the right hon. Gentleman see that all the companies which get a part of this subsidy conform to the National Maritime Board's conditions?


I am afraid that that does not arise on this Amendment.


In view of the explanation of my right hon. Friend, which fully meets all that I and my friends could possibly expect at the moment, for he has fully grasped what was in my mind, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.




Surely when the Minister was on his feet, Sir Dennis, you might have allowed him to reply to my question.


I am very sorry for the hon. Member, but, if I had known what he was going to ask, I should not have allowed his question. All I could do was to stop the Minister replying.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

8.48 p.m.

Captain A. EVANS

Sir Dennis, during the five and a quarter hours that I have been sitting listening to the Debate in an endeavour to catch your eye, we have covered a wide ground, and before the Amendment was put we had the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) deliver an interesting and entertaining speech on capitalism versus Socialism. I would like to approach this problem from the point of view of the shipping industry in South Wales, and, in particular, of the Cardiff docks, which I have the honour to represent. We have heard a lot about the subsidy, and I think the shipping industry of South Wales shares the regrets of my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir Horne) that the industry has had to come to the House of Commons to place its cards frankly on the table and to appeal to the Exchequer in its present financial difficulties. I dislike the whole principle of subsidies, whether applied to the shipping industry, or to agriculture, or to any other industry which feels that it could be assisted over a temporary period by availing itself of public money. We cannot, however, at this time be influenced unduly by any theoretical beliefs which we might have or by any petty aversions we might have had in the past towards a certain set of circumstances.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that. unless some State assistance of this kind is afforded to the tramp shipping industry, it will largely disappear and many shipowners interested in this section of the industry will be faced with bankruptcy. The position in Cardiff to-day is that we have what is perhaps acknowledged to be the finest docks in the world, we have the ships, and, indeed, we have the men, but we lack the two vital adjuncts of money and trade. I do not think anyone would suggest, and no one has suggested in the Debate, that that lamentable state of affairs is due in any way to the inefficiency or the lack of ingenuity or co-operation in the shipping industry itself. The lack of trade from which the industry suffers is due to nothing more or less than unfair competition from abroad. The shipowners in this industry are called upon to bear a burden of taxation far in excess of that of their competitors. They desire to see the best possible conditions of labour in their ships and the highest possible wages consistent with economic facts. Yet they are called upon to compete with foreign tramp ships which are subsidised by their Governments.

For that reason I feel that the President of the Board of Trade and the many hon. Members who have spoken with authority this afternoon have made out a case for the subsidy. I hope that when the industry enjoys this subsidy the Government will keep uppermost in their minds the desirability of endeavouring to bring about a state of affairs in which subsidies can be abolished altogether. I want to see my right hon. Friend use this instrument of subsidies in the same way as he used the instrument of tariffs. He has been successful in neogtiating trade agreements with foreign countries to reduce their tariffs in favour of our goods And to bring about happy industrial and commercial relations with various parts of the world only because he has been armed with an instrument which before the last General Election the Government did not possess. I hope that the whole object of the Government in introducing a subsidy at this time is to see how far they can within practical limits bring pressure to bear on our competitors to abolish their subsidies in order that competition between nations can be on a healthy and firm foundation.

On the question of principle, one should feel sorry for the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the problems which he is called upon to face in this connection. One can easily imagine the persuasive arguments that have been put to him by my right hon. Friend and by practically ever Cabinet Minister of importance asking him in the national interests to advance public money for a. subsidy for this or that interest. He has the unhappy task of deciding, from the public interest point of view, how much of the taxpayers' money should be given in this direction, and how important the claims of one industry are against those of another, all the while realising that in the long run the cost has to be met by the taxpayers, and that the prospect of reduced taxation, which is the very life blood of industry, is removed a little further from practical politics. For that reason I hope that this subsidy is going to be of a temporary nature.

When my right hon. Friend concluded his opening statement to-day I ventured to ask him a question. I hope most sincerely that he did not think when I was putting that question that I had the slightest sympathy with British shipowners who, prior to the suggestion of a subsidy, transferred their ships to a foreign flag because of the lower scale of wages and feeding expenses applicable to foreign crews. I have not the slightest sympathy with that practice. I was endeavouring to call attention to the date. According to the White Paper ships can apply for assistance under the terms of the Money Resolution provided they were under the British flag on 1st January, 1934. When I asked why that particular date had been selected I was under the impression that the first time this matter was mentioned by the Government was in July of this year. I have since been informed, on most reliable authority, that a subsidy was asked for as far back as December, 1933. I quite appreciate that in arranging for a subsidy a clear out line has to be drawn, and that, in consequence, certain hard cases will arise, and I appreciate also the desirability of the Government taking all necessary steps to ensure that ships previously under a foreign flag were not transferred to the British flag subsequent to the decision of His Majesty's Government purely in order to get the advantage of the subsidy. But I have a particular case in mind, and I ask my right hon. Friend if he will be so kind as to consider it between now and when the Bill is introduced, because I feel it is a case which should command the sympathy of the Board of Trade in view of the fact that it resulted in putting on the sea a British ship, employing British seamen, which previously had run under a foreign flag. engaging in our trade but employing foreigners as part of its personnel.

A company was incorporated in March, 1934, and in the following month purchased a steamer from Dutch owners. The steamer was originally British built, for British owners, and ran here continuously for many years until 1932, when, owing to the depression in the shipping industry, it was sold to the Dutch firm from whom the present British firm purchased it. At the time of the purchase the steamer was registered under the Panama flag, and this Cardiff firm, disregarding the obvious financial benefit which they would have derived from continuing to sail the ship under the Panama flag, immediately transferred it to the British registry. Under the conditions we are now discussing that vessel will not be eligible for the subsidy because it was not British owned on 1st January this year. I submit that that is an unfair penalisation, and I think that between now and the introduction of the Bill my right hon. Friend may perhaps be able to decide on a form of words in the Bill which would allow such a case to be sympathetically considered by the Government and included in the subsidy. I do not wish to weary the House at this late hour with all the details of this particular case, but I am sure that if I forward them to my right hon. Friend he will be good enough to consider them.

Something has been said by the Members of the Labour party to the effect that advantage should be taken of this moment to see that the wages agreed to by the National Maritime Board are paid in all circumstances. I do not think that any trade union officials, particularly those associated with the Seamen's Union, would feel that it was necessary to wait for such an opportunity as this to insist on their rights in this matter. So far as the Cardiff shipowners are concerned, I am quite certain they are the last people who would desire to see those rules and regulations broken, whether their industry were subsidised by public money or not.


The hon. Member must know that a circular has been issued by the National Seamen's Union, bearing the signatures of Mr. Spence, and of Mr. Bevan of the transport workers organisation, complaining that seamen are not being dealt with justly. Surely we should not have had that circular from such an authority unless there had been some justification for it.

Captain EVANS

All I can say is that if they have a case which they feel it is necessary to bring to the notice of the Board of Trade it will be sympathetically considered, irrespective of whether the subsidy be granted or not. It has nothing to do with this case. I understand that the National Maritime Board have laid down specific regulations as to the wages to be paid in certain circumstances, and those regulations have nothing to do with the question whether the industry should be subsidised by public money or whether it should not. In my opinion it is dragging a red herring across the discussion to introduce a matter of that kind.


Surely the Government will realise that if the seamen were obliged to accept a 10 per cent. cut in wages some time ago, that now, when the Government are coming to the aid of shipowners, particularly the owners of tramp steamers, the 10 per cent. ought to be restored.

Captain EVANS

Perhaps my hon. Friend is aware of the fact that the unions concerned have already submitted an application.


I think the whole of this discussion goes beyond the scope of the resolution.

Captain EVANS

As you have ruled that point out of order, I will not pursue it further, and will only say in conclusion that I hope most sincerely that the Government, in setting up the machinery to administer this subsidy, will satisfy themselves that there is no further undue competition within the tramp industry itself, that the practice of employing at least 98 per cent. of British nationals in our shipping industry will be continued and that the best possible conditions for British seamen going to sea in British bottoms will be continued under the auspices of this Bill.

9.5 p.m.


The subject has been very fully covered in the Debate, so I shall try to be as brief as possible. There are one or two aspects which have not been put from this side of the House, and which I think ought to be put. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) expressed surprise that shipowners who represent constituencies should themselves get up in this House and put the case for shipping. It is one of the greatest compliments that could be paid to the British House of Commons that people do get up and speak on their own industries and that their word is taken as not having any untoward meaning. The hon. Member for Shettleston did not give credit to the employer who, while trying to get better terms for his industry, is also trying to get them for his employés. If the hon. Member can speak for the working class, on which subject he has such expert opinion, he must allow some of us who have knowledge of other things to speak about them when the opportunity arises.

To those of us who are in industry and who have listened to the Debates upon industrial matters in this House during the last two years, it would appear that the capitalist system as we have known it, and have been taught it in theory, is changing very rapidly, and is receiving some very battering blows. Subsidies and quotas are all part of a process that makes the old system impossible. I merely ask the Government to assure us that they realise that fully. I bring up the subject because this subsidy Resolution seems to be one of piecemeal legislation that has been going on in regard to shipping. We have had the White Star and Cunard merger, the discouragement of the Red Star Line purchase for this country, this subsidy, and we are to have an international conference and a scrap-and-build policy. I hope that the Government fully realise the change that is taking place in the capitalist system, and that they are alive to the necessary checks which should be put on and to the neces- sity for co-operation. If they are not, and if they do not conduct their legislation accordingly, we shall be playing directly into the hands of the Opposition who wish to do away with capitalism and to put in its place something very extreme and untried; something purely experimental which may be much worse for the country, the general standard of living and progress.

The Opposition have put forward their point of view as to the personnel of ships. We have had a discussion on wages, manning and accommodation. The right hon. Gentleman who led off for the Opposition exaggerated the case very greatly and was unable to substantiate some of his statements. There may be one or two cases where there is an element of truth in what he says, and it is to such possibilities that the Board of Trade should turn their attention. The President of the Board of Trade is a busy man who has far more matters in hand than he can take care of, but time should be taken to look into this matter before further trouble ensues. It is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask that if shipowners are to have the benefit of the subsidy those who are serving under them should be assured of National Maritime Board wages. I should like to hear a reply on this point to-night.

So far as manning goes, the Board of Trade lays down regulations, but the difficulty is in the interpretation of them. We are heading for trouble unless those regulations are given a clear interpretation. There is discontent among the men and among certain of the owners because those regulations cannot he interpreted clearly. The trade unions are perfectly reasonable in wanting some clearer decision. We want some more definite interpretation of the present regulations. So far as accommodation is concerned, it is quite obvious that old ships cannot he adapted without great expense, but there is room for trade unions, owners, and builders to get together and to make sure with the Board of Trade that ships that do not conform to a reasonable level will not be launched in future. Some owners do not wish to take the trouble, and the result is a lower standard than is necessary. There is no reason for that. It only needs care in the initial stages of the building of the ship. It would pay the Board of Trade to look into the matter, because otherwise trouble will arise later, also expense to the owner when later legislation demands the higher standard.

The major criticism I have of the subsidy is that the scheme does not include cargo liners at points where they overlap with the tramp steamers. The Government have been pressed by all sections of the industry to include cargo liners because the two interests arc interwoven. It is quite possible that the tramps may hurt the cargo liners if tramps only are subsidised. The Government have acted wrongly, in my opinion. They tried to get over the difficulty by putting into the subsidy clauses that it would apply only to full cargo charters. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to note three points which are bound to arise as anomalies, if these proposals are carried out. First, the proposals do not remove the complaint of the cargo liners in regard to subsidised tramp competition. Secondly, having a hard-and-fast statement in the Resolution regarding full cargo charters may prevent tramp shipping, which, after all, has done a good deal for this country, from getting the benefit of a number of berth cargoes, which are legitimate tramp cargoes and which never interfere with the liners—I refer to the River Plate trade home on the berth. Under the present scheme the tramp is cut out of this trade—a trade which was built up almost entirely by tramp enterprise. The third anomaly which is worth taking note of is that where an owner has fixed his vessel ahead to load at a berth in the River Plate, he may be cut out of his subsidy on the outward ballast passage. If he has not fixed ahead he is a seeking ship. Why should he be penalised for fixing ahead? These are anomalies such as the Government procedure will bring out, and I would like to know that the Government are alive to them from the first, so that such anomalies can be tackled and obviated.

With regard to the President's remarks on tramp tonnage generally, that is too big a question for me to enter upon at the moment. Merchants welcome the presence of tramp tonnage in the world, because they are frightened of the power of monopoly of cargo liners and their conferences. We should remember that many times a tramp comes into the market and saves the skipper from the high rates of the cargo liners' companies and the conferences. So far as the scrap-and-build policy is concerned, we have heard the whole question dealt with to-night. If it helps employment, so much to the good, and we all wish it well, but I would ask the Government to remember the dangers that attach to it, to remember the results of the old Trade Facilities and to investigate the claims put forward to build and scrap before sanctioning them. The Government recently have put a damper on possible competition to their Cunard merger in the case of the Red Star Line question. If they will pay the same attention to private interests as they pay to the interests of the Treasury, I think that those in the industry will feel that their interests are being looked after. There is one point that I should like to mention in passing, in connection with the question of modernising ships. If owners are riot to obtain the subsidy while their ships are being modernised, I think the practical result will be that they will defer doing so until after the subsidy period, and it might be wise for the Government to consider whether it would not be worth while to allow the subsidy on ships while under repair for modernisation.

Finally, we are to have an international conference for the purpose of attempting to adjust supply to demand. It seems strange that the only real cure for the present distress, at any rate under the capitalist system, should be to lessen the number of ships, and thus create unemployment. That is a vicious circle which is not liked by hon. Members opposite, or, indeed, by anyone at all. The only true short-term cure is, however, to adjust the supply to the demand, and I trust that everyone, and particularly the Government, will try to make that conference a success. People are sceptical about it now, but there are possibilities in it, and I hope it may be a success. The Government must look ahead from to-day onwards, in case this conference fails, in case at the end of 1935 trade is as bad as it is to-day, and in case the foreigner continues to subsidise. The Government have to look ahead to-day and make up their minds what policy they are going to follow. [An HON. MEMBER: "Increase consumption!"] I would respectfully say to them that to my mind—it is only an opinion—it will be a mad economic policy and would lead to no ultimate good to consider more than one year's subsidy. The question is what is the alternative. An hon. Member opposite said just now that it was increased world trade. We are all working for that, but the immediate question is the problem.


Increased consumption.


Increased world trade is required in order to get cargoes for the ships. If the Government consider that world trade is not likely to increase very greatly during the next few years—and it is gravely doubtful whether it will—it seems wrong to go on subsidising what is obviously a surplus of ships. In that case they will have to choose one of two alternatives, rather than keep redundant ships running by spending the taxpayers' money. The one alternative would be to go back to the old system of survival of the fittest, to let the weakest units go to the wall, to let British tonnage go down, only stopping when they are frightened of the national position in case of war, and at the same time to prevent the sale of British ships abroad. The other alternative, which I think is the right one, is to try to force the existing trade, small as it is, into British ships. That is why I say that the Government must look ahead, because it would be necessary to get the cooperation of the Dominions, and also to consider what trade agreements are in process of consideration. It will be of no use to say in a year's time "If only we had known, we could have done this in a trade agreement." I would warn the Board of Trade to-day to keep that point in mind.

In trade agreements there should be some consideration for British shipping. Russia is the only country that I know of with which a trade agreement has been concluded which takes account of British shipping. The effect of that agreement has been that the Russians take British shipping, and go out of their way to take it. I agree also that there should be more co-operation between the different units of the mercantile marine, and such things as penalties against subsidised foreign tonnage may have to be considered. I think that that is the kind of policy which should be pur- sued, rather than taking the view that, if trade remains the same as to-day, you will go on subsidising. That, in my opinion, would be folly. As regards all tariff questions which come up, the man in the street does not feel altogether certain that, when a tariff is asked for by one Department, it is known in other Departments whether it will be for the good of the country on balance. I refer to such matters as the policy of the Minister of Agriculture. I should like to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary that the Board of Trade is watching the interests of British shipping in these tariff agreements, and especially those asked for by the Minister of Agriculture.

9.23 p.m.


To an individual like myself, who has been in Parliament for a good many years, the Debate to-night has been one which appears rather peculiar. For well-nigh seven hours we have had a procession—or, rather, I should say a queue—of shipowners making application for a Government dole, like those long queues which we sometimes see at the doors of the public assistance office or of the Employment Exchange. Shipowners are now lined up, waiting upon the Government dole of £2,000,000. There was another thing that struck me in the Debate. All of us here have heard time and again taunts and gibes hurled at Members on this side who represent trade unions for rising in this Chamber and speaking on behalf of the men whom they were representing in trade unions. They were told that they had no right to bring within the walls of this Chamber the grievances of those who were their members, but who might not be their constituents. To-day we have seen shipowner after shipowner rise in. his place for the purpose of telling the Committee the benefits that would come to the industry in which he was engaged, although we have been told that the Labour representatives in the House had really no sense of propriety in daring to advocate the claims, not of themselves, but of men who were in the same unions as themselves. Here in the House of Commons we have shipowners who are not ashamed to stand up and appeal that millions of money should be given to them and their associates, without a blush of shame upon their faces. In the White Paper that has been issued there is on the first page a statement, in paragraph 4, about the setting up of a Statutory Committee under the name of the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee to advise the Board of Trade as to the administration of the subsidy, and in particular to examine claims and to make recommendations to the Board of Trade regarding them. There is nothing in the rest of the White Paper which defines the constitution of this Statutory Committee. There is nothing to show who will be on that committee. Now that the shipowners are not ashamed to stand here and ask for a dole and may be on this committee to apportion the dole to themselves, I would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade if this is to be an independent committee, and, if it is to be a committee of all interests, are representatives of the seamen and engineers to be there? We would like an explanation on that point. Although nothing is said here, I hope that when this committee comes to be set up, the names of those on it will be laid before this House, since we are being asked to vote for this dole to the shipowners, and should therefore have control over the committee which is to administer the dole we have to hand to them. We have had speeches from the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bark-stone Ash (Colonel Ropner). The latter was rather angry or indignant that so far as the subsidy was concerned the cargo ship was not included. Quite a number of other shipowners were interested in the fact that cargo liners had been omitted from the benefits of the subsidy. We were told that the £500,000 proposed to be given to shipowners to indemnify them against, I suppose, the competition of tramp steamers, was not sufficient. As one hon. Member pointed out in the plan explained in this House, the shipowners would rather that the Government did not use the £10,000,000 as proposed in the Financial Resolution for scrapping and building, but that it should go with the £2,000,000 to the shipowners. In effect they said, "Thank you for £2,000,000, but for Heaven's sake give us the other £10,000,000."

We have come to a pretty pass in this country when we find advocates of Capitalism who lose no opportunity of denouncing Socialism, approaching the State and appealing for doles to keep going the industry which their inefficiency has got into such a mess. We are told that all interests are likely to be affected. In the White Paper, which runs to eight or nine pages, there is no mention of the seamen, the firemen, the officers or the engineers. It mentions tramp shipowners and a Statutory Committee, but in no paragraph do you find any reference to the men who man those ships. They are not considered so far as the President of the Board of Trade is concerned. When he is attending dinners he may give a meed of praise to the men who run the ships, but within the walls of this Chamber as President of the Board of Trade it is evident that these men have no existence for him. The only men who have any existence for the Board of Trade seems to be the shipowners and those in the industry apart from the men. The difference seems to be that while people have some regard for them as long as they are prepared to man the ships, the moment we put forward claims on their behalf they are not to be considered. The hon. and gallant Member for South Cardiff (Captain A. Evans) in his speech seemed to doubt—he gave me that impression—several of the statements made by Members of the Labour party regarding the conditions of seamen and staffs on board ships. He seemed to think these cases were not really very great, and quoted a case of his own in contrast. He said that the President. of the Board of Trade could always look into any complaints that were made.

Captain A. EVANS

Perhaps I did not express myself as well as I desired. The point I endeavoured to make was that if there were legitimate cases, why was it the trade union officials waited for this opportunity to act, instead of acting straight away?


My information is that the unions have already dealt with them, but the officials of the Board of Trade will not consider the complaints made. The trade unions have submitted memoranda to the Board of Trade, but these have not been taken up there. That at least is the information we have. So far as other matters are concerned, officials of the Board of Trade have been approached on the matter and have refused to take any action. Two ships, the "City of Winnipeg" and the "City. of Karachi," were sold to the Japanese to be broken up. It seems that the company imported about 80 Chinamen from Rotterdam to crew the ships, and subsequently it was found that the ships were laden with cargo to be discharged at various ports on the way to Philadelphia. The whole voyage to Japan was to occupy between four and five months. The representative from the Seamen's Union complained bitterly, but the Ministry responsible for the restriction of employment of aliens in this country said that these Chinamen were allowed to travel through this country to join the ships as they were not to be employed in the British Islands. A French ship with British owners engaged a crew at Dunkirk, the majority of whom were aliens. The ship was brought over on the run at £5 per head less than National Maritime Board rates, as this sum included several days work at Dunkirk. There was a Clause in the Articles under which all alien members of the crew were to be repatriated. On arrival in this country the ship was placed in dry dock and overhauled at Cardiff and, as she was flying the British flag, an officer of this Union boarded her. In answer to his questions regarding repatriation of alien members of the crew, the master blandly informed him that, owing to the cost, the owners had decided to ignore the repatriation clause. Our officials took the matter up with the aliens restriction officer at Cardiff, who said he could not do anything. What he did was to give the master permission to re-sign the whole of the alien crew on the understanding that they would not be allowed ashore. Then we come here and say, if there is anything real in cases which have already been quoted the officials will surely have taken them through the usual channels to the necessary quarter and endeavoured to have the grievance put right. They have been taken before the proper authorities, who have ignored them in both cases.


The hon. Member said a minute or two earlier that these were matters in some way the concern of the Board of Trade. Having now referred to the particular paragraph, does he still maintain that assertion?


I really do not see what the hon. Gentleman has to complain about. I was referring to a statement made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, and I pointed out that cases have already been taken up through the proper channels to the Board of Trade. I quoted these two cases as an indication that Government officials do not pay attention to a complaint when it is received from the Seamen's Union, and I read out clearly the particular Government officials who were responsible.


I do not challenge the hon. Member in the least as to the accuracy as to what he has read out, but I ask him to give me any indication of anything relating to the Board of Trade.


I will tell the hon. Gentleman what I am prepared to do with it on the Second Reading. Either I, or a member of the party, will produce sufficient evidence to let him know. If he does not know it, he ought to pay closer attention to the actions of Board of Trade officials.


I shall be very happy to await results.


We shall be happier still to see if you can get on with the results. The cubic space allowed to a criminal in a prison is six times greater than that allowed to members of the crew in many British ships. No action is taken by the Board of Trade, who have control over that. I do not think the President of the Board of Trade would enjoy a trip in that cubic space.


I have done it many a time.


The right hon. Gentleman would not do it now unless under compulsion, but he asks many thousands of British seamen to do it to-day.


I never ask a British seaman to do what I would not do myself.


I hope we shall see a Bill brought in to provide better accommodation for seamen, because those are the conditions that prevail to-day, as can be found out by immediate inquiry. It has been stated from this Box that there are 40,000 British seamen unemployed and that there are 50,000, including aliens and non-domiciled British seamen, who are displacing British seamen. A subsidy ought not to be given to British shipping so long as there is a single white British seaman unemployed. That is one of the conditions that ought to be laid down for the distribution of this money. So long as one of these white seamen who is capable of being employed remains unemployed, no foreign seaman should be employed under the British flag. Some ships are manned entirely by foreigners from the master down to the men in the stokehold. It is about time that that scandal was brought to an end. There is a demand made by seamen and transport workers, by the unions interested in the seamen and the officers and men generally. The Committee has issued a momorandum which says: In view of the Committee the problem of the mercantile marine cannot be solved in a permanent manner until there is established statutory control in the form of a Ministry of Shipping or a National Shipping Board. Such a Ministry or board, to be effective, must have the following powers—to examine the whole problem of shipping and ship building, to have before it for appropriate action the trade routes from which British shipping has been excluded, to consider the Empire problem in its relation to shipping, to consider the effect of the canalisation of trade brought about by Empire and international agreements, to be able to direct future shipping policies in the light of these recent developments, to examine the Board of Trade machinery and recommend how best it can be overhauled and brought up to date, to have power to regularise the scrapping of obsolete vessels and to deal with the whole problem of new construction. The Board of Trade has far too much to do and far too many departments to overlook. It cannot, therefore, get on with the work of organising British shipping in the manner it might and should do. Having given a subsidy to one industry, others will claim it, and the industry that has received the first subsidy will come along demanding additional subsidies in order to continue to bolster it up. Having once started, you cannot stop. The history of every industry which has been carried on by subsidies proves that. Before we bring another industry within the circle we should do what has not yet been done—lay down definite and strict conditions that those who are employed in that industry, and who are not mentioned in any of the documents already issued regarding the subsidy, must be the first consideration, because without the workers the industry could not be carried on. Ships could never leave the docks if there were no seamen or firemen to work them. Consequently, I base my claim upon the workers being the first consideration, and I do not recede from that position. Therefore, the primary condition which ought to be attached to any subsidy should be that the workers must be the first consideration of this House, or of those who are obtaining the particular subsidy.

9.46 p.m.


Many who have spoken in this Debate can claim experience as shipowners. Mine is the much more modest role of apprentice with some experience of both sail and steam. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) claimed that the first consideration of the Committee in considering any question of subsidy ought to be the workers. No one would dispute that the workers in the industry are absolutely essential to the welfare of the industry, and, as the hon. Member rightly said, no ship could leave its port apart from the seamen. But equally, no seamen could be employed apart from the ship, and the whole point about the industry is that you cannot say that the workers are the one essential and that the remainder of the industry does not matter, any more than you can say that the remainder of the industry is essential and the workers do not matter.


I did not say the "one essential," but the "primary essential."


The "primary essential" is equally fallacious with the "one essential." The whole point is a balanced working arrangement between sensible employers and sensible employees. I ask the hon. Member for Govan what it is of which he and his colleagues complain? Do they complain of the National Maritime Board and its findings as such, or do they complain that its findings are not honoured by shipowners? Because the two cases are materially inconsistent, and the hon. Member for Govan has hovered partly over one and partly over the other. There is a great deal of difference, and he will find, if he consults his friends, that there is no complaint against the National Maritime Board and its findings. What he and his friends want is to make sure that those findings will be observed by every shipowner, and that the conditions which the National Maritime Board laid down are properly respected. It is to that part of the matter I propose to address my reply.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), who led the Opposition to this proposal, spoke as if this subsidy had not been rightly granted to this industry. Whatever the view of the right hon. Gentleman may be, there is no one connected with the shipping industry who would accuse the President of the Board of Trade of having been too lenient in the examination of the application for the subsidy in this case. Never has there been a more searching scrutiny into the whole of the industry, its conduct, its financial position, and its relation to British trade than has been the examination made by the Board of Trade into the application of this essentially British possession—our Mercantile Marine. That charge, made quite lightly without giving any sign of evidence in support of it, simply falls by the mere statement.

The right hon. Gentleman devoted the greater part of his speech to the denunciation of certain shipowners, who, he alleged, had failed to observe the findings of the National Maritime Board, had undermanned their ships, had given a wrong dietary, had employed too many men below and too few men on deck, too many men on deck and too few below, and had committed various other breaches of good seaman practice. He said that he had evidence of those particular matters, and would, if the occasion required, communicate that evidence to those interested. I will not traverse them in detail. The right hon. Gentleman speaks with a sense of responsibility, and if he says that he has evidence to support what he said, I am perfectly prepared to take his statement and, when occasion requires, to examine those facts and look into them and see their true bearing. I think that it would perhaps serve a better purpose if, instead of discussing those particular instances with the right hon. Gentleman across the Floor of the House, I were to tell the Committee exactly what the position is with regard to the National Maritime Board. to the dietary, to the question of manning, and to the powers of the Board of Trade in these matters.

The National Maritime Board, as the Committee may know, is the Whitley Council of the shipping industry. It is a non-statutory body containing representatives of the various sections of the Mercantile Marine, deck officers, engineers, seamen and firemen, and its object is to discuss and to settle by agreement rates of wages and conditions of employment on British ships which sign on their crews in the United Kingdom. Let us be quite clear where the National Maritime Board begins and where it ends. The National Maritime Board does not deal with ships which sign on their crews at a non-British port. With regard to all British ships which sign on their crews at United Kingdom ports, there are scales laid down by the National Maritime Board. The Board of Trade do not control the National Maritime Board. We do not participate in its discussions, and, if there are any attempts by individual owners to avoid the agreements of the National Maritime Board or to pay officers and men less than the rates or to employ them on conditions less good than those agreed, such cases ought to be brought before the National Maritime Board. The board will undoubtedly be very glad to investigate them. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield has evidence, as I understand he has, of instances in which shipowners have not observed the requirements of the National Maritime Board, I should like to know whether those alleged breaches have ever been brought to the notice of the board itself? If they have been brought to the board and if they have been investigated and have been proved, and no action has been taken upon them, I should take a very different view of the matter from the view which I would take had the matters not yet been brought to the notice of the National Maritime Board at all.

The position as regards the restoration of cuts in wages and other matters to which hon. Members have referred is that all the sections affected have, I think, applied to the board for those cuts to be restored, and a meeting of the board has been promised to consider the matter. The issue of "The Seaman" of the 28th November, 1934, devotes its leading article to that very subject. It deals with the sailors, firemen and the catering department, and it refers to the meetings at which the union officials tabled their requests and to the fact that the shipowners asked for time in which to answer suggesting a meeting in January. I ask the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who talked about, engineers and their cuts: Have the engineers made a similar approach?




And has the answer been a, similar one?




Has any meeting been arranged?


They are awaiting a reply.


Very well, the right procedure has been adopted. Application is being made to the Whitley Council of the industry. The Committee is entitled to ask: Why have not the Government in their White Paper and in the announcements and in these discussions not, taken wages into consideration? The answer is because it is not a relevant topic. The men and the officers and all the different classes employed on a ship are entitled to the rate of wages of the National Maritime Board independently of any subsidy being given or being declined.


It is not true that they are entitled. It is a perfectly voluntary arrangement. There is no statutory authority of any kind.


I understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making. He says Chat these agreements have not a statutory sanction. I do not dissent in the least. What I am saying is that the grant or refusal of a subsidy has nothing to do with the men or officers being entitled to have the rate of wages laid down and declared by the National. Maritime Board. That is a statement of fact. That is the reason why this question of subsidy is separate from the question of wages. There has been a full discussion about it, and, when I come to the observations of individual hon. Members who have contributed to the Debate, I shall hope to give answers which may be of service in the further elucidation of the matters in dispute, because we want in this Committee to dis- cuss these matters. I am pointing out that it is not a relevant consideration on the question of the grant or refusal of a subsidy to discuss wages which are already dealt with in the industry by the appropriate machinery, namely the Whitley Council of that industry.


We wish the powers of the National Maritime Board to be made statutory. That is the point that the hon. Member is missing.


I am not missing it. I am pointing out that this is not the occasion to deal with it. Nor is it appropriate that any such statutory powers should be conferred in a Measure which has an entirely different object. May I finish my statement with regard to manning? It is also part of the special procedure of the National Maritime Board that any cases of alleged under-manning should be brought before it by the interests affected. The Board of Trade are responsible for the safety of British vessels which put to sea. The marine superintendents in the different ports, when owners are signing on crews, are aware of the scales that have been laid down and if the crew signed on for a particular voyage for a particular vessel appears to be insufficient, or wrongly composed, or in some other manner unsuitable, the superintendent sends for the owner and says: "This is insufficient." In an extreme case there would be power to prevent the vessel leaving the port.

These are not theoretical matters. They are things which occur. There was an incident as recently as last month in which a large vessel was reported as having made a voyage from Hamburg to Montreal and back to a British port with a crew which in our view was insufficient, which did not comply with the standards. The vessel was reported on its way and the marine superintendent was instructed to make certain that the crew for the voyage was in accordance with the scale. The master was notified, and as a result he signed on extra hands. This is an effective power. I do not want the House to imagine for one moment that the Board of Trade, jealous of the trust imposed on it is in any way lax in dealing with such vital questions as under-manning or the provision of an inadequate crew. That would be a wrong impres- sion for the House to have, and I do not believe that hon. Members opposite would intentionally convey. such an impression. Sufficient for the moment in regard to the questions of manning and wages.

It has been pointed out from the benches opposite that these questions in regard to the men have been raised because here is a question of a grant to the industry, and the men ought to be included. There is no such thing as a robot ship. You cannot help the shipping industry without helping the seafaring class. You cannot help the men without helping the masters, and you cannot help the masters without helping the men. If you do not help both, you will harm both. The most careful scrutiny that was made before this subsidy proposal reached the present stage was to enable the Government to ascertain at first hand what was the best method of rescuing the shipping industry from the plight into which it had fallen. The absolute and inevitable effect of declining to give monetary assistance at the present time would be that more British vessels would be laid up at the ports, more seamen would be unemployed and more officers would be unemployed. It is not merely a question of making quite certain that you are going to employ more, but it is a question of making certain that by no chance will you have to employ less; which is a very different thing. Sometimes to maintain the present condition of industry is a thing which takes you all your time.

May I now proceed to deal with the individual points that have been raised by hon. Members? The hon. Member for Birkenhead, East (Mr. White) raised two points with which I should like to deal. He said that you want to approximate the volume of international trade to be carried to the tonnage available to carry it, of which there is a surplus. He asked, why do you level your tonnage down, why do you not level your international trade up? Why not do both? Which is likely to be the quicker, the expansion of international trade or the withdrawal of a certain amount of surplus tonnage? Anyone who looks into this matter carefully will find that international trade to-day is 25 per cent. less than in 1929, but compared with 1913 tonnage is at least 43 per cent. above what it then was. Why not do the two? Why not make your approximation, which all economists realise is essential if you are to have a healthy industry, so that while doing all you can to encourage international trade you at the same time adjust your tonnage to the cargoes available.

The right hon. Member for Wakefield talked about the Government restricting international trade. I am one of the Ministers who at Question Time is asked to explain the increase of imports into this country, and I look at the figures and I find that the figures of imports are £56,000,000 odd more than in the corresponding period of last year. The imports of raw materials are over £30,000,000 up, and the value of the exports of United Kingdom produce is appreciably larger in every quarter this year than in the corresponding period of last year. For the first 10 months of this year they are £23,000,000 odd greater than they were a year ago. I am replying to the right hon. Member's point that the Government have been reducing and restricting trade. The truth is exactly the opposite. An increase of imports and an increase of exports, both in volume and in value, does not look very much like a restriction of international trade.

The hon. Member for Birkenhead, East, also asked what were the international discussions to which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade referred in his opening statement. He asked whether these international discussions were discussions among Governments or between shipowners. The answer is the latter. The discussions referred to were discussions between shipowners of this and other countries. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs contributed out of his experience valuable information with regard to the attitude of certain shipowners to their fifth and other engineers. Instances of that kind will be very readily looked into, and, if the hon. Member has any further points of a similar character, I shall be personally grateful if he will give me an opportunity of looking into them.

The junior Member for Southampton (Sir C. Barrie) in an extremely well-informed speech, if he will allow me to say so, asked why under "scrap and build" we exclude vessels engaged only in the coasting trade. I think I rightly understood him. I want to deal with that point. The whole point is that com- petition with coastal vessels comes of course from road and rail, and there is the greatest possible difficulty in giving any form of Government assistance to one of three competitive methods for transporting goods between the same points. He Mien asked why in the White Paper dealing with scrapping and building the Board of Trade should have power to allow the demolition of vessels which are to be scrapped to take place outside the United Kingdom. As the impression that that is in some way non-nationalistic appears to prevail in the Committee generally, I would like to deal with that matter for one moment. Have hon. Members considered how many firms there are in this country in a position to scrap British vessels? How many do they think exist? There are three to my knowledge. Suppose circumstances arose in which those three scrapping firms were either overcharged with work or were reluctant or unwilling to accept the proposals for scrapping more vessels. Might there not be something in the neighbourhood of a monopoly? Might not shipowners be adversely affected? The Board of Trade desires to have the greatest possible elasticity to introduce the necessary competition so that justice is done both to the British firm willing to scrap at a fair price and the shipowner desirous of having vessels scrapped. To enable the necessary facilities we ask that these words shall be inserted to give us power to prevent any monopoly.


I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said, but may I ask whether he has considered that any shipbuilder may be only too willing to scrap vessels to-morrow, and indeed they are doing it?


The hon. Member, I suppose, means new entrants into the scrapping business. I am talking of established firms who have the requisite plant. I then come to the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner). I am sorry I did not hear the whole of his speech—it was my watch below—but I heard both the beginning and the close of the speech, and I think I followed the broad drift of his argument. There was a tilt at the Government all the way through, a suggestion that the conditions laid down by my right hon. Friend were either contradictory, or impossible, or both. I could not help wondering whether my hon. and gallant Friend really thought that His Majesty's Government would ask for a sum of £2,000,000 to be voted without any conditions being attached at all. Hon. Members opposite have complained that we have not attached conditions about a great many things indicating the dietary, wages and conditions of seamen. I wonder what would have been the complaint if the Government had suggested saying: "Here is £2,000,000; lay it out for yourselves." I think it is quite sufficient to make that type of observation to induce hon. Members to realise that conditions are essential. The working out of these conditions in consultation between the industry and the Government has produced a plan which we know in advance will work and which the Government and the industry will work as partners together.

The hon. Member who represents the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. Logan) raised, as he has not infrequently raised in this House, the question of the employment of the seafaring classes in his and other ports. I think everybody heard with interest and with the deepest sympathy the plight of the ports where crews and officers unable to find a ship are to be seen in the queues waiting at the Employment Exchange. But do not let us obtain an exaggerated view either of the percentages or aggregate numbers of those men. The figures are bad enough—I make no comment to the reverse effect—but do not let us exaggerate either the size of the problem in percentages or the size of the problem in the aggregate. The total number of insured persons in the Mercantile Marine on the 22nd October, 1934, was 150,660. The percentage unemployed was 32. In shipbuilding on the same date the corresponding figures were 158,790 persons employed, of whom 47.5 per cent. were unemployed. Now we begin to see something of the reason for £2,000,000 for the tramp shipping industry and £10,000,000 for scrapping and building. One wants to pay due attention to shipbuilding with all its ramifications as well as to the seamen.

Let me come to the question of competition from foreign crews, and, among British crews, the proportion of white and coloured, because that question is introduced. The facts are these. The employment of foreigners in the British Mercantile Marine was at its greatest in the year 1903, and it has gone down every year since, both absolutely and in percentage. In the year 1929 foreigners other than Lascars numbered 8 per cent.; in 1930, 7.4 per cent.; in 1931, 6.6 per cent.; in 1932, 5.4 per cent.; in 1933, 5.2 per cent. About one in 20 of the seamen is a foreigner other than a Lascar. If we come to Lascars, the situation, of course, is quite different. There are very large numbers of Lascars employed, although the numbers of them have decreased both in the aggregate and in percentage in each year. The number of Lascars, British and foreign, employed in British ships in 1933 was 42,475, and the right hon. Gentlemen's figure of 50,000 foreigners is presumably an addition of 7,661 and 42,475. When he used the word "foreigners" he included Lascars of British nationality among the aliens. Asiatics and East Africans, who are known under the heading of Lascars, are employed frequently under agreements which commence and end at ports outside the United Kingdom. There are certain tropical runs on which it is found to be both practical and convenient, and in some cases essential, to use Lascar crews. A large percentage of these coloured men are British subjects, and this Committee will hesitate a long time before it begins to examine British nationality and put it into grades and classifications. It is no good talking about the brotherhood of man and suggest that there is some difference between a white British subject and a coloured British subject.


A difference in wages.


I want to deal fairly with the point, and I am asking the Committee to allow me to emphasise the enormous consequences and implications of any suggestion that you can sub-divide British nationality and allegiance into different groups. I am content to say at the moment that the vast majority of these Lascars are British subjects, entitled to British passports and to all the advantages of British citizenship to which any hon. Member of this House is entitled.


The Parliamentary Secretary is giving a true analysis of the statement I made, but the point I desired to make clear is that whilst I admit that the Asiatic, or the Lascar, is a British subject the fact is that our own nationals want food while the Lascar is having food. I want to know whether some adjustment could not be made whereby the Lascar might be retained in his own country and the Britisher here get food and lodgings and clothing out of his work.


That is a very wide subject and goes beyond anything I can deal with in reply to the Debate. British companies and British vessels which carry part Lascar crews are engaged in certain regular services throughout the Tropics, and it may be that the non-employment of Lascars might mean the non-employment of the remainder of the crew. I recognise that the matter is a difficult one, and from the standpoint of living the nature of the diet is entirely different in the case of Lascars as compared with the white population. It will be agreed that this is a big problem, but it is not one over which we can make any kind of capital in dialectics across the Floor of the House. It is a problem which merits consideration, and I am prepared to give it consideration, but I should like the whole implications of the problem to be clearly understood by the Committee.


I pointed to a case in which an English crew goes to Cardiff, and after that are dismissed and a Chinese crew taken on. I want that to be remedied.


Again I want to know whether the men who the hon. Member calls Chinese may not indeed be British subjects from Singapore or Hong Kong?


They all come from Hong Kong.


I notice the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and, if that be the case, then, of course, they are all British subjects. But in his opening speech the right hon. Gentleman conveyed, possibly quite unintentionally, the suggestion that the number of Chinese, Czechoslovakians, Jugo-Slavians and Arabs had increased in recent years. I assure him that he is fundamentally wrong. If he will introduce me to a thoroughly good Serbian on a British ship I shall be glad to meet him. Let me come to the question of officers. I have dealt so far with Lascars and crews. The employment of foreign officers in the British Mercantile Marine is not great, and the numbers are falling. In 1911 we had 685 foreign officers in British ships. In 1931, the last year for which I have the figures, the number was 247. There were 247 foreign officers in all in the British mercantile marine, whilst the number of British officers was 27,241. That is rather less than one in 100.

The Committee will realise that there are certain specialised trades in which it is almost essential to employ foreign officers. I would mention the whaling trade, for instance. It is a trade in which there is a great deal of apprenticeship necessary, and one of which certain nations have made a speciality. There are such people as Swedish instructors. There are officers with particular knowledge of languages. When one finds that the total number of officers of non-British nationality employed on British ships is only 247 altogether, and one thinks of cruising vessels with the necessity for different languages, one finds that the problem really does not exist. The progressive feeling of the people of England, conveyed to the boards of the shipping companies, has resulted in the number of foreign officers being kept down to an absolute minimum.

The right hon. Member for Wakefield, at one part of his speech, when he had passed away from the conditions of diet and accommodation and wages referred to the number of vessels that have been sold to foreign flags, and he adduced as one of the reasons for the sale that the owners wanted to avoid British conditions. Does not that imply that the conditions were rather harsher on the owners and more favourable to the men, and is not that in itself a contradiction of the whole of the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech? At any rate I so took it. The dietary on British shipping is better than that of the mercantile marine of any other nation. I know of no country with a mercantile marine in which the conditions are equal to or better than those of our own country. I know that in the United States of America wages are on a different footing, but I have yet to learn that the seaman of an American vessel counts himself any more fortunate than the A.B. on a British mercantile marine ship. I simply do not believe it.

While I do not complain in the least of the case made out, that all these conditions of employment have to be examined, it is a great mistake to convey a distorted view to the Committee as though these men were housed under improper conditions, treated to an improper dietary and given a starvation wage. That case breaks down as soon as it is stated. The hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Maclay)—I suppose I may call him the truest son of the sea in this House—made an important speech, full of all kinds of practical constructive points. I assure him that each one of them is being taken into account. He asked one direct question. He said "Is the Board of Trade watching the Minister of Agriculture in trade agreements which are made?" I only want the Committee to realise that trade agreements are made by the Board of Trade, so that the question is answered of itself, but naturally the hon. Member does not require my assurance to know that no trade agreement is entered into without the effect on shipping being one of the matters that is under discussion, and not only so but frequently articles are included in a trade agreement itself, such as that with Soviet Russia, which see that this point is covered.

I come to the last point with which I need trouble the Committee. If Members will look at the terms of the Financial Resolution, they will see that no subsidy is payable if the voyage was undertaken without due regard to the necessity for co-operation between the owners of British vessels in furthering the purpose for which such subsidies are authorised by this Resolution. So the voyage for which the subsidy is asked must be undertaken with due regard to the necessity for co-operation. Surely it is an essential requirement of co-operation that one owner shall not seek to obtain an unfair advantage over his fellow owners by outwardly appearing to observe the requirements of the National Maritime Board and yet, by some improper plan or by some evasion, in fact avoid that responsibility. Surely any such conduct, if it were practised, would merit and would receive severe con- demnation. It would be the absolute opposite of co-operation. I mention that point because the President of the Board of Trade, in setting out the matters which are to be considered by the Advisory Committee, has deliberately inserted that word "co-operation," so that elasticity is preserved, control is kept, and matters of this kind, such as the conduct of a good owner, are kept constantly under review. I feel, and I am sure hon. Members will agree, that the necessity for co-operation to which the Advisory Committee must have regard includes the individual fulfilment of an agreement into which the shipowners have entered in their corporate capacity. His Majesty's Government and the Board of Trade, as well as the associations representing the shipowners, are all alike jealous of the honour of the shipping industry of this country and have no idea of condoning actions which would in any way be contrary to or betray that honour.


Will the hon. Gentleman reply to my question with regard to the statutory committee that is proposed to be set up?


The hon. Member must not think that I was in any way discourteous and had overlooked his question, but I think the question and the answer would be equally out of order. I think the hon. Member must await the Bill.


May I also ask a question which I asked earlier? This also, in the hon. Member's judgment, may be out of order, in which case my question earlier in the Debate was itself out of order. Do the Government intend, when they bring in the Bill, to make it a condition of the receipt of the £2,000,000 subsidy that some regard shall be had to the conditions of seamen in the ships in receipt of the subsidy?


Not otherwise than to the extent that has been indicated in my reply.


I am bound to say that the hon. Gentleman has made no reply whatever, in which case we shall now divide.

Main Question put.

The Committee divided: Ayes, 231; Noes, 52.

Division No. 8.] AYES. [10.30 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lleut.-Colonel Gibson, Charles Granville Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Gledhill, Gilbert North, Edward T.
Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Glossop, C. W. H. Nunn, William
Albery, Irving James Gluckstein, Louis Halle Orr Ewing, i. L.
Alexander, Sir William Goldie, Noel B. Palmer, Francis Noel
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Llverp'l, W.) Goodman, Colonel Albert W, Pearson, William G.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Gower, Sir Robert Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Pike, Cecil F.
Aske, Sir Robert William Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. Procter, Major Henry Adam
Assheton, Ralph Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Bailey, Eric Alfred George Gunston, Captain D. W. Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Guy, J. C. Morrison Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western isles)
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Hammersley, Samuel S. Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Harbord, Arthur Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n) Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)
Bateman, A. L. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Remer, John R.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Blindell, James Headlam, Lieut. Col. Cuthbert M. Rickards, George William
Bossom, A. C. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Robinson, John Roland
Bower, Commander Robert Tatton Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Rose Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Heneage, Lleut.-Colonel Arthur P Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter
Brass, Captain Sir William Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Broadbent, Colonel John Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Salmon, Sir Isidore
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Horsbrugh, Florence Salt, Edward W.
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Howitt. Dr. Alfred B. Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T, Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard
Burghley, Lord Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Scone, Lord
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Hume, Sir George Hodwood Selley, Harry R.
Burnett, John George Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brlgg) Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Jesson, Major Thomas E. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Skelton, Archibald Noel
Carver, Major William H. Ker, J. Campbell Slater, John
Castlereagh, Viscount Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Kerr, Hamilton W. Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-in-F.)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Keyes, Admiral Sir Roger Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Kimball, Lawrence Smith, Sir Robert (Ats'd'n & K'dine.C)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Kirkpatrick, William M. Somerset, Thomas
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Law Sir Alfred Soper, Richard
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leotric Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Christie, James Archibald Leckie, J. A. Spencer, Captain Richard A.
Clarry, Reginald George Leech, Dr. J. W. Spens, William Patrick
Clayton, Sir Christopher Lees-Jones, John Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'morland)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Leighton, Major B. E. P. Stevenson, James
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Liddall. Walter S. Storey, Samuel
Conant, R. J. E. Lindsay, Kenneth (Kilmarnock) Stourton, Hon. John J.
Cook, Thomas A. Llewellin, Major John J. Strauss, Edward A.
Cooke, Douglas Lloyd, Geoffrey Strickland, Captain W. F.
Capeland, Ida Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir Murray F.
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Loder, Captain J. de Vere Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Craven-Ellis. William Loftus, Pierce C. Summersby, Charles H.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Mabane, William Tate, Mavis Constance
Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard MacAndrew, Lleut.-Col. C. G. (Partick) Taylor,Vice-Admiral.E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)
Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery) MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Thompson, Sir Luke
Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Denman, Hon. R. D. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness) Todd, Lt.-Col. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Denville, Alfred McKie, John Hamilton Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Dickie, John P. Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton. Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Drewe, Cedric McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Duggan, Hubert John Macmillan. Maurice Harold Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Magnay, Thomas Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Dunglass, Lord Maitland. Adam Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Eastwood. John Francis Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Whiteside. Borras Noel H.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Whyte, Jardlne Bell
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Martin, Thomas B. Williams. Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Emrys-Evans. P. V. Mason, Col, Glyn K. (Croydon. N.) windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardin. S.) Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.) Womersley, Sir Walter
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Mitcheson, G. G. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Evans. R. T. (Carmarthen) Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Wragg, Herbert
Fleming, Edward Lascelles Moreing, Adrian C. Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Fox, Sir Gilford Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univer'ties) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Fremantle, Sir Francis Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J. Sir George Penny and Lieut.-Colonel
Fuller, Captain A. G. Munro, Patrick Sir A. Lambert Ward.
Ganzoni, Sir John Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke Grundy, Thomas W. Mainwaring, William Henry
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Attlee, Clement Richard Harris, Sir Percy Maxton, James
Banfield, John William Hicks, Ernest George Nathan, Major H. L.
Batey, Joseph Holdsworth, Herbert Parkinson, John Allen
Buchanan, George Janner, Barnett Rea, Walter Russell
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Daggar, George Kirkwood, David Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Dobbie, William Lawson, John James Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, North)
Edwards, Charles Leonard, William Tinker, John Joseph
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Or. John H. (Llanelly)
Gardner, Benjamin Walter Lunn, William Wilmot, John
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro`, W.) McEntee, Valentine L. Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Griffiths, George A. (Yorks.W. Riding) McGovern, John
Groves, Thomas E. Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. John and Mr. Paling.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.