HC Deb 08 February 1934 vol 285 cc1309-11

I wish to ask a question of which I have given private notice to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am sure the House will regret to see that the Chancellor is not in his place, which is owing to illness; we hope that it will be of only a very temporary character. I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can now make any further statement regarding the negotiations for a merger of the North Atlantic fleets of the Cunard and White Star Lines; and whether the proposals of the Government for affording financial facilities for the completion of the suspended Cunard liner will shortly be laid before the House?


I will convey to my right hon. Friend the kind expressions of the hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend is indisposed to-day with lumbago. The answer to the question is: Yes, Sir, a formal agreement, conditional upon the necessary consents and the passing of legislation by Parliament, has now been entered into between the Cunard Steamship Company, the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company and the Treasury to give effect to the arrangements referred to in the reply given to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Commander Cochrane) on 13th December last. My right hon. Friend proposes to introduce the necessary legislation shortly; and in the meantime, in order that the House may be aware of the nature of the proposals, I have arranged that the agreement shall be published this afternoon in the form of a Command Paper.


Would it not be possible for some provisional financial arrangement to be made with these companies, so that they need not further delay the resumption of work, but start once more, during these winter months; for this is a matter affecting from 9,000 to 10,000 men all over the country, who are continuing their weary wait, and who must be rapidly losing all hope?


I have indicated to the hon. Member that we are still awaiting certain consents, and I do not think that there will be any undue delay. In any event, I am glad to be able to count upon the assistance of the hon. Member and his friends in getting the legislation through as rapidly as possible.


Can my hon. Friend give any indication of whether it is the intention to lay down a second Cunarder?


Power is taken in the legislation and in the agreements to give assistance in the laying down of a sister ship or ships, but no commitments in that regard are undertaken.


May I suggest that the sister ship should be given to the Tyne, where the "Mauretania" was built?