§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Dr. Burgin)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
At 12 noon to-day the Cunard-White Star liner Aquitania, which has among her passengers the President of the Board of Trade, was still 40o miles from Southampton, so perhaps the House will once more grant me the indulgence of allowing me to introduce a shipping Measure. Although it seems only a few hours since the whole of the material covered by this Bill was discussed at length on the Financial Resolution, we now present to the House the necessary legislation. The Bill continues the Acts of 1935 and 1936, and the changes in the earlier Acts are the insertion of the dates 1937 for 1936 and 1936 for 1935 as the case may be. There cannot be any hon. Member, or any 1854 member of the general public, who is now unfamiliar with the broad case of the necessity for a subsidy from public funds to the tramp section of the British Mercantile Marine. That the Mercantile Marine is an essential national asset is not disputed; that the tramp section is particularly valuable is not disputed; that a few years ago that section of the industry was in an extremely bad way is not disputed.
The Command Paper that has been issued, giving the Fourth Report of the Tramp Shipping Administration Committee, gives details which must convince the most obstinate reader. It is in these circumstances that we bring before the House to-day this renewal Bill. The necessity for bringing the Bill forward is because, under the British Shipping Assistance Act, 1936, the subsidy came to an end at the 31st December last. As was stated in the Debate on the Financial Resolution, in 1936 payments have been made in respect of subsidy for the first, second and third quarters of the year amounting to £1,163,183. Payments for the fourth quarter have yet to be made. As soon as they are made the usual White Paper will be published showing the total payments distributed, the name of each recipient and the amount each has drawn. It is not expected that publication will be delayed, but we are still shortly after the turn of the year and it has not been physically possible to complete the whole of the inquiries preceding the distribution of the subsidy. Hitherto the subsidy has been distributed quarterly. The Financial Memorandum issued recently showed that the Government's proposal this year varies, and that it is suggested, having regard to the high rate of freights which are prevailing, that it would be better to wait till the end of the year before any distribution was made.
The President of the Board of Trade, when the question of giving monetary assistance for shipping was first raised, took the point that the industry should, as far as possible, be put on terms, and so the proviso was made that if, by the aid of the financial assistance, or the alteration of world conditions, or a combination of both, freight rates rose to a particular level, the subsidy should cease to be paid. At the rates now prevailing subsidy would not be paid. No one can foretell the course of freight rates. There 1855 has been a sharp decline in the few weeks of 1937. No one can say whether that decline will be arrested, or whether rates will be maintained at any particular level. The suggestion of the Government, therefore, is that we should wait till 31st December before any payment of subsidy is made. If during the 12 months levels have been maintained, and the average of the year is sufficiently high to show that the subsidy is not required, no subsidy will be paid. It is on that footing that the Financial Resolution proceeds and that the Bill comes now before the House. When the question of the renewal of the £2,000,000 subsidy for a further year came under consideration the industry was notified that the subsidy, if granted by Parliament for 1937, would not be renewed for a further period, and that the plans of the Administrative Committee and of individual owners should be made on the definite assumption that the subsidy to tramp shipping should cease at the end of 1937.
One of the great effects of the subsidy has been the measure of co-operation in the industry that has been secured. The President of the Board of Trade, in notifying the industry that it was proposed to ask Parliament to grant a further £2,000,000 for 1937, and also notifying them that 1937 was to be the last year, added that he trusted it would be possible for the industry so to organise as to ensure that the measure of co-operation secured by reason of the subsidy should continue after 31st December, 1937, although the subsidy did not continue to be paid. The Government attach the greatest possible importance to the continuation of the measure of organisation which has been taken in the industry, and they rely on the industry so arranging matters within its own limits that the measure of co-operation is not disbanded and dissipated at the end of the year.
Is there any hon. Member who needs any convincing whether this subsidy was necessary? If any hon. Member takes the trouble even to scratch the surface in comparing the position of the tramp section of the shipping industry in the years 1930–34 with its position in 1935–36, he will find that a highly individualistic, fiercely competitive industry, which a few years ago was rapidly approaching 1856 bankruptcy, was selling its assets by forced sales, was in a state of complete despondency and hopelessness, has been turned into an industry organised not only nationally, but internationally, on a basis that has brought about co-operation not only between tramp and tramp but between tramp and cargo liner shipping, that the forced sales have stopped, and that the industry is in a position to take advantage of any improvement that may come to it. It is really a remarkable change of affairs that has taken place over such a short time. When the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) comes to speak it will be interesting to know what alternative suggestions might have been put forward that would have had any possibility of bringing about anything like the same result.
§ Dr. Burgin
It is amazing to hear that in any part of the House there can be anybody really desirous of having national control of the shipping industry. There have been suggestions of that kind in previous Debates, but it finds no part in the Amendment tabled by hon. Members opposite. They are prepared to give assistance to this industry even under private ownership, as their Amendment clearly shows. Some people are inclined to talk as if cargo liners were so invading the province of the tramp that the days of the tramp's prosperity must necessarily be of short duration. So long as bulk cargoes—oil, wheat and grain, coal, ore and sugar—have to be transferred from producing countries to consuming countries, the tramp will be an essential part of the Mercantile Marine of any country. These trades are seasonal, and whether it is due to harvests, industry, and the changes in purchasing power in different countries, quite apart from any service—and it is a very big service—which the cargo liner can give, there will always be the need for the freight ship free to pick up cargoes in any country at any time, and to carry them to any other destination. To this country with its large trade in food and material the value of the tramp shipping 1857 industry is obvious and cannot be overestimated.
The machinery of administration was laid down in the first White Paper in the year 1934, and that machinery, organised by the shipowners themselves, has worked admirably. It would be the desire of any Government spokesman to pay the wannest possible tribute to those members of the shipping industry who voluntarily have taken upon themselves the burden of public work necessary to organise the industry and to administer the subsidy in the way they have done. The right hon. Gentleman opposite smiles, and seems to suggest that the tasks which have been performed within the industry are to be treated lightly. The whole system of freights maintenance schemes that has been worked out hat been produced by voluntary work within the industry. The measure of co-operation which has been brought about has been very great. The facts are set out in Command Paper 5363, and I do not propose to go through them in detail, but I call the attention of hon. Members to them, and if points are raised, no doubt there are spokesmen acquainted with the industry who will answer them. The way in which the different routes have been organised, and the effect immediately upon freights so produced, are very striking indeed and the whole of the stimulus by which that has been brought about has been the subsidy—the power to withhold the subsidy, and the power to grant the subsidy if reasonable conditions are complied with. It is almost surprising that in these circumstances, when hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite do not object to the subsidy as such, there should be opposition to this particular subsidy.
The reasoned Amendment which stands in the names of right hon. and hon. Members opposite recognises the importance to the State of the Mercantile Marine—we are on common ground so far—and is prepared to grant it proper assistance. I am very glad to recognise that Members of His Majesty's Opposition are prepared to grant to this industry proper assistance. No doubt one of their spokesmen will, on some occasion, indicate the nature of the assistance they agree to grant, and what in their view is proper assistance. We should be very interested and very glad to hear it. The form of assistance which alone has been successful has been 1858 monetary assistance granted on conditions. It would be very interesting indeed to learn what form of assistance hon. Members would have been prepared to have granted that could, by any stretch of the imagination, have been capable of producing the results that have accrued. The Amendment goes on to say that hon. Members opposite,cannot assent to the continuation of a subsidy under conditions which are swelling private profits instead of ensuring the efficient reorganisation of the industry and the establishment of a higher standard of wages and conditions for sailors.Let us look at what is meant by the story of swelling private profits. Does it mean that no company that has efficiently carried on its business and has proved itself capable of weathering the years of depression, is to be invited to come into these freight maintenance regulation schemes? Does it mean that the big companies, which are precisely the ones which can torpedo a scheme or arrangement if they so desire, are not to receive subsidy? Does it mean discrimination between voyages carried out by ships according to who is their owner? The scheme of the Government has been, that a vessel complying with certain conditions and carrying a cargo under certain rules, and run by an owner prepared to pay National Maritime Board wages and to apply National Maritime Board rules as to officers and crew—a vessel run under those conditions, qualifies on its voyage for subsidy regardless of who it the owner. The Amendment seems to suggest that you are to say to an owner of such a vessel who applies for subsidy at the end of the voyage and sends in the account, besides proving that he has complied with all these conditions, "You have to give an undertaking that the subsidy, if received, will not go into your general account, and that on no account Must your private profits be swollen." The House will not regard that as a serious contention. We have long since got past the day when £5 notes paid into the bank were identified—this is for depreciation, this is for reserve, this is for dividend, and this is for salaries. Money that is paid into an account is treated for general purposes as the owner of the account thinks best.
If the object of a subsidy is in part to assist these companies when they have not made voyage earnings and have not in consequence increased their reserve 1859 and been able to put money aside for depreciation—if one of the objects of the subsidy is to see that the depreciation accounts are built up in order that moneys may be available for the building of new tonnage, then, is it not equally essential to see that these companies are run under conditions of finance which attract popular approval? Since when has the idea gained currency that those who provide the capital for a shipping company are not entitled to reasonable dividend on their money?
The fourth report of the Tramp Shipping Administration Committee gives particulars of 251 shipping companies, and I hope that hon. Members will have read the material paragraphs dealing with the rate of return on capital that has been made by those companies taken by and large. It is difficult to find out how far there has been failure to make adequate allotments to depreciation accounts, and how far there is inability to set aside the requisite amounts for rebuilding and replacing tonnage. The type of assistance which hon. Members opposite would have occasion to give would be assistance to the industry which brought about efficient reorganisation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to speak, will give some details of what he means and tell us what reorganisation he aims at and how he proposes to bring it about, and why he thinks the measures of reorganisation that have been taken are not adequate. They ask for a higher standard of wages and better conditions for sailors. The plain facts are that wages have risen and that there is a measure of control over this very matter. Surely, it is an odd way, either to increase wages or to help sailors, if you allow an industry to fall entirely into decay. I need not go into further detail at this stage with regard to this proposal.
I will now turn for a moment or two to the actual details of the Bill. The Measure is a simple one, and follows to a large extent the wording of the Act of 1936. Clause 1 is divided into a number of Sub-sections, and Clause 2 is the title. We are, therefore, virtually dealing with a one Clause Bill. Clause 1, Subsection (1), proposes to extend the period in respect of which subsidies are payable so as to include tramp voyages and parts of tramp voyages carried out in 1937. This is done by the mere 1860 Amendment of dates in the two previous Acts. In considering the effect of the Amendments it must be remembered that Clause 1, Sub-section (4), of the Bill has to be taken as amended by the 1936 Act. If hon. Members contrast this Bill with the 1935 Act, they will be in error because that Act was itself amended by the 1936 Act. That is all very elementary, but I thought that I ought to make it quite plain. In the method adopted in the Bill, all the conditions laid down in the original Act for the payment of subsidy will apply to the 1937 subsidy, without the necessity of restating them in the new Act. Clause r, Sub-section (2) is the same except as to dates, as Subsection (3) of the 1936 Act.
The sums necessary for the subsidy and the administrative expenses are to be defrayed out of public moneys, and must not exceed £2,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield in one of his earlier speeches, which I was reading with profit to myself a little while ago, thought that the £2,000,000 would progressively increase as the years went by, and said that two spoonfuls would not prove sufficient in future years, and the dose might have to be increased. This shows the same conditions, and the £2,000,000 is the maximum. Clause 1, Sub-section (3), is of a formal character and corresponds with Sub-section (4) of the 1936 Act. It applies to the 1937 subsidy the provision in the 1935 Act, under which the Board of Trade are given power to decide whether any tramp voyage, or part of a voyage is carried out in the year to which the subsidy relates. That is the whole of the Bill. The House will see we are dealing with a one Clause Measure, the object of which is to renew, mutatis mutandis, the Acts of 1936 and of 1935. I move the Second Reading with confidence. The facts support the Government in their desire to bring this legislation forward. Whatever the wicket may have been at Adelaide, this is a batsman's wicket.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:whilst this House recognises the importance to the State of the mercantile marine and is prepared to grant it proper assistance, it cannot assent to the continuation of a subsidy under conditions which are swelling private profits instead of ensuring the efficient reorganisation of the industry and the estab- 1861 lishment of a higher standard of wages and conditions for sailors in recognition of their arduous calling.I am very glad to find the Parliamentary Secretary in such a combative mood. If he is the batsman, I am the bowler, and I hope it will prove to be a bowler's wicket. I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade himself is not here, partly because I think his presence would have been desirable in this Debate, and partly because I have some understanding of the responsibilities which are falling upon the Parliamentary Secretary on this occasion. I should hope that the President of the Board of Trade will not return in the "Queen Mary" but in one of his own tramp steamers or in a cargo liner employing Lascars and living on Lascar rates of wages. This appears to be the Parliamentary Secretary's swan song on this question of subsidies for tramp shipping, and no doubt that is why he has been a little more aggressive than on previous occasions.
I do not propose to refer specially to the question of the conditions of life at sea, because I have spoken about them before, but I think one is entitled to refer to the conditions on which the subsidy was originally given. The Parliamentary Secretary has spoken again to-night about the fulfilment of the conditions, and one of those conditions is the payment of wages on the National Maritime Board's scale. I have a case here of a ship, the steamship "Baron Inchcape." A letter was addressed to the Board of Trade away back in November, and a further letter was sent in January, and the Board of Trade was good enough to acknowledge by postcard the receipt of the letters, but the reply did not reach the organisation which was concerned until the very day on which we had our first discussion in the House this week, and then it was sent by hand. I am glad at least that the Board of Trade can be active on occasions, but it has been a matter of two months' delay before this question has been inquired into. The complaint was that during two voyages the steamship "Baron Inchcape" paid wages below the National Maritime Board's scale. That boat is owned by a company which gets the subsidy from the Government. This is the reply, which was very hastily sent by hand on Monday. Who applied the 1862 ginger in the Board of Trade, I do not know, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman does.I am directed by the Board of Trade to refer to your letters of the 24th November, 1936, and the 7th January, 1937 … regarding the rates of wages paid to certain of the navigating and engineer officers serving on the steamship 'Baron Inchcape' on two voyages commencing 3rd September, 1935, and 2nd September, 1936, respectively.The Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee have been in communication with the owners of the vessel on this matter, and have ascertained that the error in respect of the wages paid to the first and second mates and the first, second, and third engineers arose inadvertently ….That is a long word, but it is a very good one and appears to cover "a multitude of sins." The reply goes on:… and that when the matter was brought to the owners' notice in connection with the opening of articles for the subsequent voyage of the vessel, the position was rectified.The owners have satisfied the Committee that they have taken the necessary steps to make good to the officers concerned the difference between the rates actually paid to them in respect of the previous voyages and the rates applicable under the appropriate National Maritime Board Agreement.In these circumstances the Committee regard the matter as satisfactorily settled.I am bound to say that a letter like that fills me with the deepest apprehension. I cannot believe that any responsible shipping company can underpay people—what was the word?—inadvertently. I cannot believe that the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee is doing its work effectively. I hope the hon. Gentleman will, by the courtesy of the House, be entitled to make his explanation of that, because again he has stated that there has been a fulfilment of these honourable conditions with regard to wages.
In the House of Commons over two years ago now I drew attention to a speech of the President of the Board of Trade, made in Leeds. I regretted when I spoke that he had not made it in this House, but at least it was a brave speech. He said:Power had been taken to prevent black-legging in the chartering of tramp steamers that were entitled to the subsidy. They would see to it that the portion of the British Mercantile Marine that received subsidies should not blackleg in wages or other conditions that were under the control of the National Maritime Board.We have raised from time to time the question of Lascars employed in British 1863 ships. I have said in this House that Lascars are all of them born in Aden and are, therefore, British citizens, and that the Chinese sailors on British ships are all born in Hong Kong and ate, therefore, British citizens. I am assured that that is broadly the truth, and I am going to accept the position now, that these Lascars and so on are British citizens who are, tinder the spirit of this Act, entitled to the protection of the British Maritime Board and its regulations. I quoted in an earlier Debate in the House from the form issued by the Tramp Shipping Committee for applications for subsidy in respect of tramp voyages, and I want the Parliamentary Secretary and the House to follow my argument here, because we have succeeded time after time, as a result of questions pat by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe. (Mr. Benjamin Smith), in eliciting a little more information about the position of these Lascar seamen. The form in question has to be filled up by a tramp ship-owner or by a cargo-liner Owner Who is, for the purposes of the Act, a tramp ship-owner for the time being, and he is required to make this declaration:I declare that these particulars are correctly stated and that during the period covered by the applicationWe have had a case of inadvertence in regard to that, to which I have already referred. It goes on:
- (a) I was the registered owner of the ship above mentioned;
- (b) National Maritime Board wages were paid to all officers and crew;…"…(c) All members of the crew were British subjects …which includes Lascars, Chinese born in Hong Kong, and Kroo boys from West Africa—…(d) The National Maritime Board agreement requiring the inclusion of three certified navigating officers, in addition to the master, in the crews of foreign-going vessels of 2,75o tons gross and upwards was complied with.There is a footnote to the form, which says:If a declaration cannot be made in the sense of (b), (c), and/or (d), the words should be struck out and an explanatory statement attached.On 8th December last my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he would state 1864the number of vessels in respect of which subsidy has been paid during 1936 in which lascar or other coloured seamen formed the whole of the crew and part of the crew respectively.The Parliamentary Secretary will no doubt remember his reply on that occasion. He said:The information desired is not available in the records of the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee, since it is not relevant to their consideration of claims to inquire whether the crew on any particular voyage comprised or included coloured seamen.He went on to say:Owners must satisfy the committee that in the engagement of seamen they have complied with the committee's requirement regarding the employment of British crews."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1936; col. 1808, Vol. 318.]Having regard to the form of the declaration to be signed by the shipowners, which I have read, and having regard to the footnote which I have also read, the inference to be drawn from the Parliamentary Secretary's reply on 8th December last is that all persons, whether white or coloured, employed as British citizens on a ship on a voyage which qualified for subsidy were paid according to the National Maritime Board Agreement. That is perfectly clear. If the coloured seamen were not paid in accordance with that agreement, that declaration could not be signed by a shipowner—at least, not honestly—and an explanation would be necessary. I have read the agreement which says that if an owner cannot answer (b), (c) and (d), he must attach an explanation, and that explanation would clearly go before the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee. Consequently, the information for which my hon. Friend asked a few weeks ago ought to be available and must be available in the offices of the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee, unless every British seaman employed on every ship which has got a subsidy was receiving the Maritime Board rate of wages.
I am going to say that as regards Lascars, as regards Chinese, and as regards Western African Kroo boys, those rates are not being paid. I am going to suggest—and I do not want to put it too high—that the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary have not been very frank about this question. I am going to suggest that they have prevaricated. I am even going to suggest that they have misled this House 1865 and the public. On 7th April last year my hon. Friend the Member for Rother-In-the—I hope he will not mind my, quoting him so often to-night—asked a question of the President of the Board of Trade about the crew of the steamship "Kelvinbank." That was a steamship owned by a, company that received nearly £77,000 of subsidy in 1935,, a company which employed a very large number of lascars and Chinese. In reply, the President of the Board of Trade said that the lascars were serving on a lascar agreement opened at Calcutta, and that subsidy had been paid in respect of voyages carried out in 1935 by this vessel. My hon. Friend then put this question:Is it the case that the agreement they are under contravenes the rates of the National Maritime Board?The President of the Board of Trade replied:I cannot say that until the agreement has been examined by the Committee.My hon. Friend then drew attention to the fact that the National Maritime Board agreement contains a stipulation as to overtime, and the President of the Board of Trade replied:The remaining members of the crew are employed on a lascar agreement and, as is customary, there are no stipulations regarding overtime in this agreement. I have drawn the attention of the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee to this matter.My hon. Friend, who seemed to be irrepressible that afternoon, pressed the point further, and said:If that is so the agreement"—that is, the National Maritime Board agreement—is not being observed by this company.Then the President of the Board of Trade said, for the second time within two minutes:I have already said that I have drawn the attention of the Committee to these facts"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th Ana 1936; cols. 2577–8, Vol. 310.]Therefore, there can be no dubiety of meaning about the answer given by the President of the Board of Trade. My hon. Friend's enthusiasm waned for the moment, and he gave the President of the Board of Trade two months before he pressed the matter again. On 16th June he put this question to the President of the Board of Trade:Whether ha has now, consulted the Tramp Shipping Administrative Committee as to the 1866 validity of lascar agreements on ships in respect of which subsidy has been claimed; and, if so, with what result?The President of the Board of Trade replied:I am not aware of any reason for consulting the Committee on this subject.Not aware of any reason for consulting the Committee on this subject, when on one day he had twice stated that he was bringing the matter before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:But I may remind the hon. Member that lascar agreements are Indian Government agreements signed in India under the supervision of the Indian Government's representatives.In view of that answer, which was a complete denial of what the right hon. Gentleman had said he would do two mouths before, my hon. Friend pursued the matter further by asking:Has not the right hon. Gentleman given the House to understand that the Maritime Board's agreements are the agreements which have to be observed to qualify before the collection of the subsidy, and is he not now saying that he is extending these agreements to lascar agreements made in India, for which the Maritime Board have no responsibility at all.The President of the Board of Trade replied:The hon. Member is mistaken in imagining that the Maritime Board agreements apply in this case.
§ Kr. Greenwood
Of subsidy. Then my hon. Friend said:The point that I want to get is this: Will the right hon. Gentleman see that maritime rates are enforced for all British seamen employed as a condition of receiving the subsidy.The right hon. Gentleman replied:Exception for lesears, in this case as in all others with which I have dealt in answer to questions, the British Government agreements apply.Then my hon. Friend, the Member for Seaham Harbour (Mr. Shinwell) said:Is not that a complete evasion of the whole spirit of the regulations governing the shipping subsidy agreement.The President of the Board of Trade replied:Nothing of the kind. It is a repetition of what has been said many times before."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th, June, 1936; cols. 778–9, Vol. 313.]Now I come to a further point. On 27th July, after the President of the 1867 Board of Trade had put the responsibility on the Indian Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe asked the Under-Secretary of State for India for details as to lascar agreements, and later was supplied with copies of the three agreements which are in operation, copies of which are now in our possession. He also asked who were the responsible authorities to make the arrangement as to the wages of lascar seamen. The Under-Secretary of State for India promised to supply the information, and my hon. Friend received a letter from the India Office, dated 11th December last, part of which I will read:I also promised to find out for you what organisations representative of the lascars were consulted in connection with the drafting of these agreements. The answer to this is that the seamen's unions at Bombay and Calcutta were consulted generally about the drafting of the agreement form. As regards the arrangements as to wages, the agreements, including the term regarding wages, are made between the lascar seamen and the master of the ship.That means that, in effect, these agreements are not agreements; they are terms determined by the master of the ship with the lascar as he signs on. That being the case, what is the position of certain cargo liner companies in this country who employ coloured seamen who, as we have been told from the benches opposite, are British seamen although their skin may be coloured? What is the position of those companies who have received subsidies when they have employed British seamen on conditions which do not fulfil the National Maritime Board's conditions? How do these companies complete the declaration form for the subsidy? How was it that they were given the subsidy? I am going to mention the names of some of the companies, cargo company liners some of them. I am not complaining about all of them; some of them are very good companies, but they have received out of public funds, subsidy, and they employed lascars but did not employ them under conditions which we think ought to be observed.
Let me give the figures for 1935. I am sorry that we have no information about 1936. I object very much to giving any subsidy for another year before we know how the last subsidy was spent. I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary ought to accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham about talking of old 1868 stuff. If he will provide us with new stuff we will talk about it. Meanwhile, I am bound to go back to 1935, because the 1936 figures are not available. The Clan Line received £17,000; the Bank Line nearly £77,000; T. and J. Brocklebank, £1,700; the Charente Steamship Company, £13,000; Elder Dempster and Company took a trifle of £1,200; H. Hogarth and Sons, £2,000; the Hogarth Shipping Company, £46,000; and the Ocean Steamship Company over £2,000. How in these circumstances were these firms entitled to subsidy? We have pressed this matter time after time on the notice of the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary, but they have evaded the questions about lascars. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe has put a whole series of questions running for several months in order to probe this matter, and to-night we are entitled to a further answer.
Now I will carry the matter a little further. On 8th December last the Parliamentary Secretary made a statement in the House, of which I will remind him:There has been so far no case in which the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee have found it necessary to withhold their recommendations for payment of subsidy solely on the ground that the applicable agreements of the National Maritime Board have not been observed in respect of rates of wages. Certain cases have come to the Committee's notice, where the rates paid on a particular voyage to individual members of the crew were less than is required by the agreement applicable.No doubt, as in the case which I have quoted, they were inadvertently paid:In these cases the Committee, before recommending payment of the subsidy for that voyage, have required owners to make the appropriate payments to the crew.Can we infer from that statement that this action has been taken with regard to the British lascar seamen? I doubt it very much, and I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will give us a reply on that point. Now I come to a specific case which shows how this subsidy is working and how lascar seamen are being exploited, to the disadvantage of British seamen. Let me take the case of the steamship "Dumfries," which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherhithe. On 8th December last my hon. Friend asked whether the President of the Board of Trade would supply:The number of white British seamen and the number of lascars, and their rates of 1869 wages, now employed on the steamship "Dumfries," and the number of white British seamen and the number of lascars employed on this steamer on the 1st July, 1936."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1936; cols. 1807–8–9, Vol. 318.]The reply which was given, and which I gather is in the mind of the Parliamentary Secretary, shows that on the voyage terminating at Avonmouth at the end of June last year that vessel was completely manned by British-born white seamen, and their rates of wages were in accordance with the National Maritime Board's conditions. The total wages on that voyage, which terminated in Avonmouth on 13th June last, including all the officers, but excluding the master, amounted to £293 per month. This same vessel sailed from Barry in South Wales on 19th November last, five months later, on a tramp voyage. The boat retained its British officers but discharged the whole of the ratings and appointed in their place lascars. It kept its officers, its wireless operator and its carpenter, but the whole of the rest of the crew where lascars. The number of British ratings on the boat when she docked at Avonmouth in June was 20.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Yes, I stand corrected. The number of lascars taken on was 49. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary and I are in agreement about something.
§ Dr. Burgin
In order that we may be in entire agreement, the 29 includes the first, second and third mate, the wireless operator and the carpenter.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I do not deny that; and 49 people took their place. In spite of the fact that the number of people on that ship was doubled the monthly wage figure, taking the rupee at 1s. 6d., was reduced by £45 per month. As a matter of fact, the officers had had an increase in their salaries, and if this is taken off, as it must be for the purpose of comparison, the wages paid were reduced for twice as many people by £63 per month. A British ship having had a British crew within a few months engages a lascar crew, more than double the crew, with a substantial saving to the company in wages. The matter was brought to the notice of the House by the hon. Member for Rotherhithe, and the figures with regard to saving were not disputed. My hon. Friend asked: 1870Whether the rates of pay given to the lascar seamen and firemen are in accord with the decisions of the National Maritime Board.The reply was:The National Maritime Board's decisions as to rates of wages do not apply to the lascar crew who were engaged in India on lascar agreements.I want to follow the history of this business, as it is very important to our discussion. How was it that a lascar crew was available in Barry, in South Wales, of men who had been signed on under an agreement in India, to take over the steamship "Dumfries"? On inquiry it appears that these lascars were transferred to the "Dumfries" from another ship called the "Cromarty" belonging to the same owners, and in the shipping paper called "Fair Play," which is not always an exact description of the paper, on 17th December last there was an explanation why these lascars were available at Barry.Readers who have studied the shipping sales recorded in these columns recently no doubt have noticed quite a number of transactions showing a considerable profit on the prices paid a few years ago. For instance, last week the sale was reported of the 'Cromarty' for £60,000, which compares with her sale in August, 1933, for £44,500.I shall be interested to know whether, according to all principles of sound finance, the shipping company put aside the necessary amount for depreciation during those three years. In any event the sale or the resale of the vessel meant a handsome profit to the company, and then having sold the boat the lascar seamen were transferred to another ship of their own line which hitherto had been manned by a British crew. The owners of these vessels are Messrs. B. J. Sutherland and Company, Limited, Newcastle-on-Tyne, who have a fleet of half a dozen vessels, and they, in 1935, received a subsidy of nearly £19,000. But I have not finished with this case. Just before the Christmas Recess, on 17th December, the hon. Member for Rotherhithe asked:Whether any application has been made for assistance under the British Shipping (Assistance) Act in respect of the voyage or voyages made by this vessel since the 19th, November, 5936.That refers to the "Dumfries," and the: reply was:The voyage of the 'Dumfries,' which began on the 19th November, is not yet complete, and an application for a subsidy could not therefore have been made."— 1871 [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1936; col. 2635, Vol. 318.]This particular voyage of the "Dumfries" was to the River Plate, and I am informed that all British vessels without exception on this route employ British crews at the National Maritime Board's rates of wages. This was an ordinary tramp voyage. What is happening is that this company now for the first time is employing lascar labour on a route where they have never sailed before and are damaging other lines of steamships who are honourably employing British seamen at British rates of wages. That is a story which, I submit, ought to be more fully investigated. It is a story which does not give hon. Members on this side any confidence in the way the subsidy is being administered.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to what was said earlier in the week about this being a subsidy to profits and made a speech which would have wrung the heart of the Minister of Labour if he had been present. In many respects I agree with what he said, but what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I am sorry that the Minister of Labour was not present to hear the Parliamentary Secretary give his very logical and powerful reason for the abolition of any means test. He said that these companies were all struggling with adversity and, poor dears, that they were all deserving of a little bit out of the public funds. If the Government would only co-ordinate their policy, let us understand what it is, we should know where we are, but it is perfectly clear that what is happening in the tramp shipping industry is that firms who have no need whatever for assistance are getting it. I see that the Minister of Labour, who is now present, shivers at the very thought. His basic principle is that public money should not be wasted on people who are not in need. He believes that you cannot squander public money on people who are not in need, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade tells us that it is perfectly all right and decent, it is honourable and desirable, that wealthy firms should be able to dip their fingers into the pockets of the public.
The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) tried to defend the position on Monday night, and 1872 is here to defend it again. With some courage he spoke frankly of his own position. He made, shall I say, the proud admission that he was responsible for two subsidised companies, both of them engaged in the tramp shipping trade, and, of course, he defended the subsidy. Although I am quoting only this particular case, I could if necessary quote others, but I would rather do it before au hon. and gallant Member who is present. I know that the hon. and gallant Member's arithmetic was such that he worked it out that he has had a profit of only I per cent. over a number of years, but it does not appear to me as though he is likely to become a person who will fall under the Minister of Labour and become amenable to the means test. I gather from "Fair Play" of 14th January that last year the hon. and gallant Member's two companies made a profit on voyages amounting to £15,000. I admit, of course, that the capital of the companies amounts to nearly £,000,000; but of the amount of the profit, over half was subsidy, for the hon. and gallant Member's companies received £17,000 in subsidy. I am not blaming him for accepting it; I am only blaming the Government for giving it to him. That sum represented a substantial proportion of the whole subsidy.
I think it is reasonable to say that if it is in the public interests that public money should be devoted to resuscitating an industry, it ought to be directed into channels which will ensure that the subsidy is used for the purpose of restoring the industry and not, as our Amendment says, of swelling private profits. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is not a poor man. I have found out what he put away for depreciation. Of course, he was very wise to put some money away for depreciation, but I am bound to say that this depreciation business rather mystifies me, as an ordinary, plain man. After making inquiries, I gather that the average age of the hon. and gallant Member's ships is 10 years. Depreciation of 5 per cent. is usually allowed on a life of 20 years. A good many ships have been well depreciated, are still going strong although they are over 20 years old, and have been well paid for. The hon. and gallant Member's companies, however, are putting away well over 5 per cent. each year, so that his profit is really a little larger than he tries to make it appear to us.
1873 because he is putting money away for this mysterious process of depreciation. As has been said already from these benches, we do not like subsidies. We conceive that in certain circumstances subsidies may be desirable, but they ought not to be used to serve the ends of private profits.
I come now to the next point. The Parliamentary Secretary, in his speech on Monday, referred to the organisation of the industry. All that he means by the organisation of the industry is co-operation among the tramp shipowners to raise freight rates, and in that they have succeeded. The only kind of co-operation that has taken place has been co-operation to safeguard the owners against their own silly freight rates competition. Nothing more has been done. The hon. Gentleman asked me what was to be done about the reorganisation of the industry. I would like to quote a speech which was made in his presence in the Debate on Monday last by a shipowner. The hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Maclay) has an honoured name in the shipping world; it is honoured on this side of the House as well as among shipowners. He is a very enlightened shipowner, and the conditions on his ships are a model which I wish other shipowners would copy. In his speech on Monday last, he dealt with the question of reorganisation. The hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash twitted me about nationalisation; in fact, he was rather chirpy about it and I am glad he was in that mood; but I will quote what was said by the hon. Member for Paisley, speaking as a shipowner of very considerable experience:One of the good things about the subsidy has been that it has given the industry a lead towards organisation.That was only organisation in the direction of "rooking" the consumers by raising freight rates. The hon. Member then went on to speak of the position in the shipping industry:At the moment there are conflicting opinions in the industry. Some say, 'If the subsidy finishes, let us go on with organisation voluntarily'; others say, Let us have no schemes at all,' and there are those, a pretty strong section, who say, 'Let us have an enabling Bill passed through the Mouse of Commons, without any subsidy, which will force co-operation.' That is the present position among owners—a complete confusion of thought as to what is best for the future.The hon. Member went on to suggest the lines that might be taken: 1874My last remark must be concerned with the necessity for organisation and co-operation. It was essential to stop what was becoming suicidal competition among British tramp owners. If we allow this organisation to be carried on, I hope on a voluntary basis, it will establish an organised industry ready to co-operate with the foreigner in some cases and in other cases to fight him. I am convinced that those industries of Britain which have to compete in international trade in future will not be able to do it as little, individual units. I do not say you will have to go to the full Socialist programme; I do not think you will, but industries will have to organise themselves so as to be able to cooperate with the Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1937; cols. 1364–5, Vol. 319.]That is as much as I can expect from a Conservative shipowner, arid it is more than I should expect from His Majesty's Government; but there we have an admission by a responsible shipowner of experience and a Member of this House who, although he will not swallow the whole of the dreadful "Red" programme, is bound to face the fact that there has to be concentrated organisation of the industry. This subsidy has done nothing to promote that. All it has done has been to bring these people together with the object of raising freight rates. The subsidy has just drifted into the pockets of the shipowners. I told the House of the Elder-Dempster Line—£1,200. I imagined that the directors of that line would have regarded that sum as petty cash. The subsidy has just been dripping into the pockets of the shipowners without the country getting pound for pound in real national value. I compare that with the treatment which this Government has meted out to the seamen. We have pleaded with the Government on this question for over two years now, and the Government have not made a single concession to the seamen. At the International Labour Conference at Geneva, Conventions have been submitted affecting the lives of the seamen, and His Majesty's Government, on every occasion except one, have stood with the shipowners of this country.
My hon. Friend who spoke on the Money Resolution said that we were concerned about the mercantile marine. So we are. I believe that well-found British ships, manned by British officers and crews, carrying out their duties under conditions which are honourable to the service and to our people, would be a great national asset. This subsidy has 1875 done nothing to promote that object. It has done nothing to promote that reorganisation of a part of our mercantile marine which is necessary both in peace and war. It has done nothing to deal with what is a matter of fundamental public interest. I should be the last to complain if public resources were being devoted solely to the public good. I should like to see the mercantile marine and the section of the trade which is particularly concerned in this Bill, enriched, improved, and strengthened as a result of the subsidy. But that has not been done. The failure of the Government during the time which they have had to reorganise the industry is, in itself, sufficient reason why we should vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. I have had experience for some years of the textile industry. Those engaged in it are stubbornly determined not to cooperate. The shipping industry too is highly individualistic, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, and those engaged in it are not to be relied upon to co-operate voluntarily. Yet this great service is vital, and if His Majesty's Government would use this subsidy, as a means of raising the dignity and efficiency of the service, it would be worth while. But so long as it filters through into depreciation accounts and goes to swell profits, it is doing nothing either for the seamen or for the welfare of our people.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Major Sir Herbert Cayzer
This Debate is primarily concerned with tramp shipping but, of necessity, one is bound to refer to shipping as a whole, because passenger liners, and cargo liners, as well as tramps, have qualified for the subsidy although, generally speaking, to a very small extent. In fact it is very hard to differentiate sometimes, in this matter between the liner and the tramp business. Liners have always carried a certain amount of tramp cargo. In certain seasons of the year, from certain parts of the world, they bring home cargoes of those commodities. They carry cargoes of tramp commodities from India, Australia and South Africa in the slack season and at the season when these commodities are moved liner companies frequently carry cargoes of rice, sugar and wheat. This is nothing new, and it is not cutting into the tramp business because it has always been part and parcel 1876 of the shipping trade. Liners carry such cargoes not always for the whole of a voyage but often for half a voyage, say, when they are coming back from abroad to this country and that is how, to a large extent, cargo liners have qualified for the subsidy.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) made a good many comments on various companies with regard to reorganisation when he spoke on Monday last, and I wish to answer him on one or two points. He said that the reserves of the 26 cargo liner companies amounted to more than £35,000,000. Some of those companies, he said, had qualified for subsidy, and he asked what was the good of pretending that they required financial assistance. The hon. Member was evidently unacquainted with the working of the Act and the conditions under which it was put into force. It was found very difficult to find a true definition of "tramp shipping" and after a great deal of time and thought had been given to the matter, it was decided that ships carrying whole cargoes of tramp commodities and fulfilling the conditions laid down should be entitled to the subsidy, irrespective of whether they were owned by passenger line companies, cargo liner companies, or tramp owners. It was necessary to have some definition and that was the best that could be found. The tramp voyages of liner companies which have become eligible for subsidy are only a very small fraction of the liner companies' business.
Only 10 out of the 26 liner companies referred to in "Fair Play" from which the hon. Member for Seaham quoted, received subsidy. The amount of that subsidy was £108,000, the bulk of which went to two companies, leaving only £14,000 for the other eight. Thus, the amount received by most of the companies was in the neighbourhood of £1,500 or something like that, which is a mere bagatelle for many of these big liner companies. One of the objects of the subsidy is to fight the competition of foreign ships which are being subsidised by foreign Governments, to alleviate the losses which the companies engaged in those fights incur, as a result of taking uneconomical rates so as to compete in the open market against those foreign subsidised ships. Many of these cargo liners have been doing that very thing. This subsidy is not profit, not 1877 something for nothing, as some hon. Members opposite are inclined to think. It is paid in order to put British ships on fighting terms with foreign subsidised ships in the open market.
I have been asked to give particulars with regard to two or three cargo liner companies to which the hon. Member for Seaham referred the other day. I am not going to say anything about the remarks he made concerning tramps, because there are hon. Members who know more about it and are more closely in touch with that line of shipping than I am. The hon. Member complained about the Bank Line that they had received a subsidy and yet had made very large profits amounting to £338,000. I am told that these are the gross profits of that company before depreciation and are the returns from their lines, and tramps, and dividends on investments. The gross profit secured by their tramps was actually only £64,550. The depreciation in respect of the tramps amounted to £133,900, so that on the tramp side of their business they showed a net loss of £69,000. After giving credit for the subsidy of £76,000, the net profit from the tramp voyages amounted to £7,400. It is not a fact, as the hon. Member said, that they paid 3½ per cent. dividend because they say that no dividends were paid on the ordinary shares.
Then the hon. Member spoke about the Houlder Line. The information I have received is that this line operates four large refrigerator vessels for the carriage of chilled and frozen meat from the Argentine to this country. This case, therefore, has nothing to do with the question of tramp subsidies. It is merely, as they say, an accident that the company performed certain tramp voyages during 1936 which entitled them to a subsidy of £1,766. They say, in answer to further inquiries:It is perhaps of special interest to note that the voyage trading in respect to which these subsidy payments were made resulted in an actual loss considerably in excess of subsidy received.They further state with regard to the business of their company as a whole that their gross profits were £146,000, and not £137,000 as the hon. Member for Sea-ham stated. The actual trading profit after deducting repairs and maintenance charges amounted to £112,000, but when depreciation and other charges are deducted the net profit amounted to £29,000 1878 only. The hon. Member also put some questions with regard to my own firm, the Clan Line. He stated that the Clan Line did not even comply with the conditions laid down when the previous subsidies were granted, and that it did not pay the maritime rates of pay. With regard to the first statement, I do not know to what he is referring. I take it that the Subsidies Committee are the sole judges of that, and not the hon. Member for Seaham, and as we were paid a subsidy, I presume that we complied with the conditions. All I can say with regard to his second statement is that, of course, the Clan Line pay the maritime rates of pay. In fact, they pay in excess of the rates.
§ Mr. Gibbins
Is it not a fact that the Clan Line carry lascar seamen? Are these paid maritime rates?
§ Sir H. Cayzer
I have spoken about that subject over and over again in this House, and I am prepared to do it on another occasion, but I intend to make the speech I have prepared. We have already heard a great deal about lascar seamen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and I am not going to devote every speech I make to that subject. We do carry lascars and they are paid the recognised Government of India rates. If the conditions had not been fulfilled, the Clan Line would not have received the subsidy. The fourth report on Tramp Shipping, Command Paper 5363, pages 11 and 12, gives a statement which I will not quote again because the right hon. Member for Wakefield has already mentioned it. It shows that in no case has the maritime wage rule been broken. The subsidy which the Clan Line received was £17,600. I have made inquiries, and I have found that the profit on the voyages of their ships which earned the subsidy amounted to £19,600, less depreciation of £26,600, leaving a loss on the voyages of £7,000. As a matter of fact, we engage in a great many trades, and we have been fighting the American Government this year on the trade from New York to South Africa. It is only a small trade, but we have lost on it fighting foreign subsidised shipping over £50,000 this year. So that our losses in fighting foreign ships amount to far more than we have received.
1879 As regards subsidies generally, I have stated frequently in the House that I am absolutely against them. In the debates we had two years ago I spoke against granting a subsidy. I would prefer a good many other methods of dealing with the shipping position, but the House in its wisdom thought proper to grant a subsidy to our tramp shipping. All the cargo liners backed up that demand because they realised that the tramps were going through a very difficult period and they were out to see that they got the help that they really needed. The hon. Member for Seaham said that there appeared to be no reorganisation in the Mercantile Marine, and he suggested that there was need for reorganisation and rationalisation, and an inquiry into the question of depreciation and replacement in the fleet. I question very much whether the hon. Member for Seaham has the slightest knowledge of what British shipping has done in these respects. Practically every trade throughout the world where British liner companies are carrying on business has been rationalised wherever possible, and by every possible means. Australia, India and South Africa have all been rationalised more than once. Further, we have actually been able to get foreigners to agree on rationalisation with us in some trades. It has taken months to get them into line, and in the Australian trade it took us years.
As regards reorganisation, judging from the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham he fails to understand or to appreciate the troubles from which British shipping is suffering, and or what has already been achieved in the way of combating those troubles. To get a true picture we have to go back to the War. That is when the trouble started. While foreign Governments have always helped their shipping in every way they can since the War, our Government, I am sorry to say, have done very little indeed, except the other day, when they gave this tramp shipping subsidy, in fact, they have gone the other way, and appear to have tried to weaken shipping. Hon. Members will recollect that during the War we had the Excess Profits Duty, and British shipping was the one industry which was excepted from claiming back losses under that legislation.
§ Sir H. Cayzer
He was not talking about shipping, but about capital appreciation. During the War the British merchant fleet was commandeered by the Government; not only the fleet, but the whole of the organisation. The ships were put on Blue Book rates, which were quite inadequate in the circumstances. [HON, MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I will tell hon. Members about it if they will listen. For ships which were lost they paid sums which were much less than was required to replace those ships, and the profits made under Blue Book rates were barely sufficient to pay for the normal depreciation of 5 per cent. What did the Government do when they took over the ships? At once they put up the rates which the shipowners had been charging by 200 to 300 per cent., and the result was that in the course of the War they made hundreds of millions out of shipping, none of which went back to shipping. Shipping was allowed to have Blue Book rates and nothing more. Owing to the enormous number of ships sunk by submarines it was necessary to replace a great number of ships, cargo liners especially. The Japanese, the Americans and the neutrals were trying to get into the trade which had been formerly British, and it was only by the cargo lines and the passenger lines furnishing sufficient ships to carry on those trades that we could keep out the foreigners. Tramp owners could and did sell a great many of their ships at the high prices ruling, and they were justified, it was quite right to do so. You sell when prices are high and buy when they are low. The liner companies had to build or buy at three to four times the prices at which they had obtained ships in pre-war times. A ship which one could have bought or built pre-war for £100,000 cost £300,000 to £400,000 at the end of the War; yet we had been cut down to pre-war profits under Blue Book rates.
§ Sir H. Cayzer
The worst thing that we ever did was taking over those ships. It would have been better to have sunk them.
§ Sir H. Cayzer
No, they proved dear. Those of them which we had in our fleet we should have been glad to get rid of, 1881 but no one wanted them. Then, in 1921, the slump came and prices fell below prewar. There was an enormous depreciation in the value of the ships which the cargo line and passenger lines had had to build as a result of the War losses. With the slump prices fell below pre-war 70 to 80 per cent., and it was quite impossible for any of those lines to write off depreciation out of profits. It could only be done by using up reserves and writing down capital.
How did the British lines face this heavy burden? The hon. Member for Seaham said that British shipping failed to reorganise. To show that they did not fail to reorganise, I propose to tell the House of the reorganisation which my own firm underwent, because I think it is probably typical of what was done by a great many other shipping companies. In common with other companies we were left with this war legacy of millions of depreciation to be written off as a result of having to replace boats we had lost in the War. We had about 30 to 40—I cannot remember the exact number—of ships sunk by submarines, and those had to be replaced, and, generally speaking, we had to pay three or four times more than the pre-war value for the new vessels. Then the slump came and reduced them straightaway to the pre-war level of values. How did we face up to that position? We went through a difficult time for years. No dividends were paid on the ordinary shares for eight years. The average dividend from 1920 to 1934 inclusive, that is for 15 years, was under 2 per cent. We had £2,225,000 of capital in ordinary shares of £10 each. They were written down to £1 each, one-tenth of their former value. The ordinary capital was thereby reduced to £222,500. There were £750,000 of cumulative second preference shares. £500,000 of those belonged to the managers, and we wiped those off. All the reserves were used up in meeting depreciation. In spite of all those efforts we had to raise £1,500,000 in debentures to try to keep ourselves solvent.
That was the position of the company 10 years ago. I do not think one could get very much more drastic reorganisation than that. These drastic steps were taken and this heavy voluntary sacrifice was made by the management, and as a result of it the depreciation, running into millions, was wiped out. The decks were 1882 cleared of the wreckage which was the result of the War, though at a great sacrifice to our shareholders, who received no dividends for years. The result is that to-day we are able to pay dividends on a small capital as compared with the post-war capital, and we are starting to build up reserves again, though not nearly to the extent that I should like. We had no ships laid up throughout the depression. We have always tried to keep our ships running, although making losses, as I believe the loss incurred in running is less than the loss which follows the laying up of a ship, when depreciation is very rapid and high. That is what has been done in the way of reorganisation by the Clan Line, although the hon. Member for Seaham denies that there has been reorganisation of shipping.
I have quoted that one case because I know all the facts, but, as I say, I think it is typical of a great many other shipping undertakings—typical of the great majority of the liner owners and of many tramp owners. I hope the House will excuse this rather personal side, but owing to the constant misrepresentations which there have been—not in this Debate, but in previous years; and I admit that I have had some very handsome apologies for mistakes made—I have felt that it was only fair that I should try to give the House the true facts. I felt that the questions which had been put forward needed answering. The Amendment backs up the hon. Member's query about reorganisation, because it speaks of British shipping needing more efficient reorganisation. British ships are losing ground in the trade of the world, but I maintain that they are as efficient as, even more efficient than, foreign ships.
To prove my contention that we are losing ground—and I do not think there is any question that we are—I will compare figures for June, 1914, with those for June, 1936, which are the latest figures obtainable. In June, 1914, Great Britain had 17,000,000 gross tons of shipping—I am speaking of vessels of 2,000 tons and over, ocean going ships—which was 5o per cent. of the tonnage of the world. In June, 1936, that tonnage had been reduced to just over 15,000,000 tons, and it was only 29½ per cent. of the world tonnage. On the other hand, foreign countries had just over 16,000,000 gross tons in June, 1914, 48 per cent. of 1883 the tonnage of the world. In June, 1936, they had more than doubled that figure; they had over 34,250,000 gross tons, giving a percentage of 66.8 of the gross tonnage of the world. In other words, whereas in 22 years Great Britain's gross tonnage had decreased by 12 per cent., the tonnage of foreign countries had increased by 112 per cent. You cannot get away from the fact that we are still losing ground.
As regards efficiency, in order to prove that I am going to take the three factors, age, speed and size, and to compare this country with foreign countries in those respects. Again I am taking vessels of 2,000 tons gross and over. Over 36.5 per cent. of the tonnage of this country was under 25 years old in June, 1936; foreign countries had about 25 per cent. As regards tonnage over 25 years old, only 5 per cent. of our total tonnage was of that age, whereas foreign countries had 14 per cent. Both as regards young ships and old ships, therefore, we are to the good—very much to the good—compared with foreign countries. As regards speed, ships under 12 knots comprised 52 per cent. of our tonnage, but 70 per cent. of the foreigners'; over 12 knots, we had 48 per cent., but it formed only 30 per cent. of the tonnage of foreign countries. In speed, therefore, we have them again. Size is not so material, but generally speaking, a large boat is more economical than a small one. In 1936, 6,000 tons gross was our figure, whereas that of the foreigner was only 5,000 tons. I think that hon. Members will agree that in age, speed and size British ships are infinitely more efficient than, and are superior to, foreign ships.
Why, then, are we losing ground, when we are more efficient? Purely and simply because foreign ships are subsidised to the extent of 130,000,000 a year. They get that uneconomic subsidy paid to them. After the War, when British ships were handed back to their owners, they were put back on their old services. They had been taken out of those services when they were commandeered. In most cases, those services had been built up by British owners, but when they went back, they found that the foreign, subsidised ships had taken possession and refused to quit. British liners were forced to fight their way back, and they have been fighting for those trades ever since. The 1884 result is that, since 1921, the liner trade to and from foreign ports has lost heavily. In all seriousness, I say that British ships cannot continue indefinitely against that unfair and uneconomic competition of State-aided foreign ships. Some British companies have already succumbed, and others are in a very bad way. I am not going to recite all the instances. We have all heard about the Pacific trade, and I shall not go into that any further except to say that British liners are in a bad way. In the Japan trade, British liners have had to pack up and have now only a very small trade. On the New York-Plate lines, the losses are tremendous, and companies withdrew their services.
In the New York-India, New York-Australia and New York-South Africa trades, which were built up entirely by British lines and were entirely British-operated before the War, we now have only a share, and that share is decreasing every year. The losses of the three or four British lines running the New York-South Africa trade must amount to £150,000 or £200,000 this year alone. The South Africa-New York trade, which was an entirely British line, is now entirely in American hands. British shipping is being gradually and effectively driven out of the trade between Dominion and foreign ports. If that goes on, we shall have to confine ourselves entirely to Empire trade. The tramp subsidy of £2,000,000 has given a breather to tramps, and I, with other shipowners, welcome it, appreciating the fact that the Government gave it; but it is no cure against the evil from which we are suffering to-day, that is, foreign, subsidised ships. The foreign subsidies are not directed against tramps, but against the liner trade.
I was one of those who agreed to the tramp shipping subsidy. As a result of two years of that subsidy, has British shipping improved its position in the world? Have the foreign subsidies been diminished, and have foreign nations shown any desire to drop or reduce their subsidies? The answer is in every case "No." British shipping's share of the world trade is worse than ever. With all due deference to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who said that the co-operation achieved during the last few years had enabled British owners to compete on equal terms with 1885 foreign owners, may I point out, as was said by another hon. Member, that schemes of co-operation assist the foreign owners as much as British owners? That is actually true. As long as foreign subsidies exist on the present scale, British owners cannot compete on equal terms with foreigners. You cannot get away from that.
Hon. Members will say: "What is the cure?" That is not my job. I have made various suggestions in this House from time to time. A very easy way out, and one on which, I think, my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary have made a start, is that of using our position as the biggest buyer in the world. In nearly every country we have an adverse balance of trade, except, perhaps, with France. We should have trade treaties, not little niggling treaties, but treaties which use our purchasing power thoroughly. I believe we could do a great deal in that way to help British ships and to give some reply to the subsidies given by foreign countries. After all, there is the Merchant Service. It may be said, "You waste money and you are not efficient. You are not re-organised." I have tried to show that we are a very important, if not the host important of all our Defence Services. Without our ships, without a certain number of small and big ships, this country has starvation staring her in the face in the event of war. While I appreciate the help which the Government have given to tramp shipping, and also support this Bill, which continues the subsidy for another year, I hope they will seriously consider the wider aspect of shipping policy, and will give British shipping as a whole fair play in the trade of the world.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Muff
The hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth (Sir H. Cayzer), from his well prepared brief, has made no mean contribution to the Debate this evening. I am glad that he gave us that bit of ancient history when he complained that his fleet, the Clan Line, with other cargo fleets, was commandeered by the then President of the Board of Trade—
§ Mr. Muff
If the hon. and gallant Member will ask him, when he arrives from 1886 the "Aquitania" in another 30 hours, the then President of the Board of Trade, who is now President of the Board of Trade once more, will tell him quite frankly that his fleet was commandeered, with other fleets, owing to a lack of patriotism on the part of those shipowners, who were asking for prohibitive rates. It was in defence of the nation, which was at that time in danger of being beaten to its knees, that the then President of the Board of Trade took drastic action for the protection of the British public. I am also glad that the hon. and gallant Member has frankly acknowledged that he is still continuing the policy of his firm, with which I have been conversant since 1922, at any rate, when the policy was to employ as far as possible cheap and docile labour. That policy is being continued. When it was suggested to the hon. and gallant Member that perhaps the standard rates of wages were not being paid, he said that they must be paid, because there is an omniscient body of men looking to see that fair play is being given, except when it is missed inadvertently.
We on this side of the House are not going to apologise for returning once more to the attack on this question. We are not going to apologise for our endeavour to see—again to use the slogan of the hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth—that fair play is given to British seamen. I have no brief on this matter; I acknowledge that I am a landlubber; but I also acknowledge with pride that I represent the third maritime port in Britain. I do not know what the Indian maritime rates are, but I am glad to see, from this very admirable report, that only 31,000 tons of tramp shipping are now lying idle, as against 300,000 tons a short time ago. I notice also another passage in which it is stated that there is a definite shortage of white seamen. I suggest that that shortage will continue as long as the Indian maritime rates exist to undercut British white seamen. The Parliamentary Secre-tary may smile—
§ Dr. Burgin
I do not think the report quite says that. What the report says is that there is a shortage of white seamen available, that is to say, that a vessel putting into certain ports in this country, and desiring to take on a white crew, 1887 would not be able to find all the complement that she wanted. That is what the paragraph means.
§ Mr. Muff
I accept that, but I also know that there are boys growing up who would be tempted to go into this highly skilled profession if there were some security that they were going to have a square deal and fair play in their duties. We have this notorious case where white men are sacked and cheap and docile labour is commandeered or crimped, or at any rate taken on, so that there is a saving in wages. I think that in the case of the "Dumfries" there was a saving—
§ Dr. Burgin
I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but he will, of course, appreciate that the House so far has heard a portion of one side of that story, and that it would be unwise to draw conclusions from the facts which have already been given.
§ Mr. Muff
I am prepared to accept what my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has put before the House, and, if necessary, to give a little emphasis to it, in order to allow the Parliamentary Secretary, when we have the privilege of hearing his reply, the opportunity of giving some refutation to the challenge. My point is that I would be prepared to pay the white rate of wages to the hon. and gallant Member's cheap and docile labour in order to encourage young men to go into this great profession. Then we should have less of the hon. and gallant Member's cheap and docile labour undercutting his competitors and driving some of them out of the market, as has been the policy of his firm as long as I have known it, that is to say, for the last 15 years.
One reason why we have brought forward our Amendment is that we object to the shovelling out of public money without adequate control. We know that we are bound as a palliative to have some form of subsidy, but we contend, and we want to emphasise, that there must be adequate supervision, not altogether directed by the hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth. I should like, if I may, to pay the Parliamentary Secretary the compliment of saying that we have suffered no loss of efficiency in the presentation of the case owing to the absence of the 1888 President of the Board of Trade. I always thought that the Parliamentary Secretary's motto was Suaviter in modo, but to-day is has been Fortiter in re. When I was a youth, I looked upon the President of the Board of Trade as a Gamaliel so far as subsidies were concerned. He presented as a truth the statement that subsidies were vicious. If he had been here, I should have told him that he once stated that as an eternal truth, and that, notwithstanding the fact that even his Parliamenary Secretary may put up a splendid case to the contrary, it is an eternal truth, and therefore cannot be really controverted. So we do not like these subsidies. I would refer the Parliamentary Secretary to a speech made by the Government spokesman in another place on 15th November, when he said:We will not wait to be approached by the Dominions or foreign countries in order to make agreements. We will take the initiative and we will make the approach.I am wondering what steps the Department has taken to try to put an end to these vicious subsidies. I remember the Noble Lord's peroration. It was something like this—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member had better not do so. He has been in order so far in referring to a statement made on behalf of the Government. A peroration is another matter.
§ Mr. Muff
The policy of the Government was that they would leave no stone unturned to try to find a solution of this difficulty. I am wondering if they have started digging up the stone, or whether it is hidden in some international morass which takes some digging up. I quite agree that there are difficulties. Enlightened shipowners acknowledge that they do not like the subsidy. They acknowledge, and the Parliamentary Secretary and Government also acknowledge, that it is but a palliative, a plaster upon an ulcer, and that what is wanted is a cure, and not simply the application of a palliative.
Another part of the Amendment refers tothe establishment of a higher standard of wages and conditions for sailors in recognition of their arduous calling.1889 Not being a seaman myself, I pay my tribute to the men of the Mercantile Marine. We ask the Government not to look upon them as mere Lazaruses, as it were, to receive the crumbs from the rich shipowners' table. The seamen of England are something more than that. We have been able to do something on this side by our reiteration of this, that there must be the abolition of such ships as the "Crescenta." We are pleading for the fo'castle, for a sense of greater security and a larger remuneration. If I ask the Parliamentary Secretary who had made this country great I am sure, with his great knowledge, he could give me an answer. He would perhaps say it was Queen Elizabeth. He might say it was the Duke of Marlborough. He might even say it was Sarah Jennings or her modern incarnation who sometimes sits in the corner seat, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I believe that the men who put this country on the map of the world were the seamen of England. We are not pleading for the opulent shipowners but for those who go down to the sea in ships, and we ask, to paraphrase the words of the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth, that the white seamen of England shall have fair play.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Sir Alan Anderson
We are debating for the second time in a week the question whether we shall assist by a subsidy one of our great trades which is absolutely vital to our security and prosperity. I shall not ask the House to listen to me on any points of detail. I take my cue from something that fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) who said, "We do not like subsidies but—." It is on that "but" that I wish to speak. I am sure the House will agree that when we debate the question of distress in the Special Areas we are united. We feel that we have one cause. It is to help to cure distress. We may take a different view as to the pressure that we can put upon the Government, but our objective is the same. In all these Debates I remember only one speech that seriously cut across that desire not to say anything offensive to people in trouble. We had one speech from a candid friend. I remember that we sat up all night after it. He felt it necessary to tell the people 1890 in South Wales, with whom he sympathised, that in his opinion fresh industries were not likely to start in their narrow valleys. That was the one speech of a candid friend of the depressed areas.
How different when we come to this question of the mercantile marine, which is the next step in putting right the depressed areas. The mercantile marine is not geographically an area, but it is in the trading sense a very obvious area of great distress. If all the people who live by the mercantile marine, not merely the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner) and the hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth (Sir H. Cayzer), but seamen, stevedores, and shipbuilders, were all brought together in one district, it would be one of the most depressed in the whole of Great Britain. The causes of their depression cannot be separated from the causes of the depression of the other Special Areas. You cannot separate them. From motives of administrative convenience a geographical designation has been given to commercial distress. We know the Special Areas as geographical units, and because we have not that geographical concentration the mercantile marine has escaped a great deal of the sympathy which I ask the House now to accord to it.
We are endeavouring in this Bill, which I hope will pass to-night, to make one step forward in curing the depression of a Special Area. And why not? Why are we suspicious? Why is the atmosphere different in debating this subject from what it was in debating the Special Areas? I think the answer is obvious. Hon. Members say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and why not a means test? Next, they do not like to pay subsidies to provide dividends. They say also, "We do not think that this cure will work." I will not go into these points in detail, but I ask hon. Members to put away criticism and to approach these difficult questions in the friendly spirit in which they approach the Special Areas. With regard to a means test. We shall in the near future, I hope, consider means of putting right the depression in the Special Areas. There will be enterprising people who will come forward and who will be willing to revive industry and promote prosperity.
What are we going to say to these people? Are we going to say, "If you 1891 have a bank balance and reserves you shall not be permitted to undertake business here"? Certainly not. The more power they have, the more commercial genius they show and the better they can conserve their resources, the more likely they are to help in building up the prosperity of those areas. So it is with shipping. This is no passive operation. Shipowners are not asked to receive. They are asked to undertake a difficult operation, and to my mind there is no question at all that if we proceed on this line of subsidy it is absolutely essential for us to allow the people who have reserves, who have proved themselves fitted to conduct this industry at a profit, to serve us in bringing back business, which we all want.
Then there is the objection about the subsidy going to pay dividends. On the average of the whole of these companies the profit from voyages has been, over six years, only one-sixth of what is required for depreciation. The right hon. Member for Wakefield pretended that this word "depreciation" was a bit of a mystery to him. I have such respect for the intelligence of the right hon. Member that I am not entirely deceived by that statement. But may I say that this depreciation is simply the estimate of the amount by which plant and so on loses in value every year? If you start with an article worth £100 and it is going to be worth nothing at the end of 10 years the depreciation is said to be £10 a year, and if you fail to make £10 you have not made a profit. If at the end of five years you sell the article for more than half its original cost you have made a capital profit. Depreciation has to be dealt with in that rough-and-ready way, but taking one ship or business with another it pans out fairly accurately. When you find that the profit of an industry falls so enormously short of depreciation as to produce only one-sixth of the estimated loss of value every year, you may be perfectly certain that there is no profit being made out of that industry.
I should interpose here, perhaps, that although I am a shipowner I am not a tramp shipowner and am not sharing in the subsidy. I am not claiming any special, virtue because of that, but I am not in that trade. I submit that no hon. Member need feel his suspicions aroused 1892 about the necessity of a subsidy because certain shipowners who have shared in the subsidy have paid dividends to their shareholders. It was not, on an average of the probabilities, from their tramp ships that these dividends arose. If anyone doubts that let him look at the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) last Monday, and they will find that he takes instances one after another of companies which are notoriously engaged in the liner business, which is right outside this, and whose share in this tramp business is a comparatively small item. The Clan Line was one. The Houlder Line was another. They have this outside business.
There is just one final point—that this is not a cure. No one believed that it was. The shipowners had debated this for several years. There was great opposition to asking for a subsidy, great opposition to supporting the tramp ship owners' claim for a subsidy. We could not think of any other way of helping. We felt perfectly certain that to apply something like a tariff, shutting out the other ships of the world, would be far worse, far more costly to all of us. A subsidy seemed to be the only way, and we were convinced that the tramps were a really bad case and that their claim for national support must be heard. But it is only a patch. It is the bandage. The cure is to restore the trade of the world, stabilise the currency of the world, and restore peace. These are the cures for all our evils. Let us hope that with the help of the United States and France we shall march forward faster than we have done. I think that we have made great progress lately; let us hope that we shall go on. But even if this is only a patch, when your patient is bleeding to death you are not shy of putting on a tourniquet and stopping the bleeding, although you know that that will not cure him. This subsidy will probably not be used. The tramp ship owners hope that it will not. If it is not, it will mean a return to prosperity which will spread out to South Wales, the North East of Britain and Glasgow, and show that we are coming back to better times. We all hope that they will arrive soon.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) told us that this is only something to patch up 1893 what is at present an evil, and he suggested that to-night we should vote to continue this subsidy in order to keep the patch on the particular evil from which the tramp shipping industry is suffering. That is all very nice, and I am certain that the House appreciates the nice, quiet and homely manner in which the hon. Member put his case. But we object to the subsidy, and one of the grounds of our objection is that, while you apply the patch to the tramp shipping industry, you do not inquire into the needs of those to whom you are giving the subsidy. When you come to look at the evil which exists in society which the hon. Member also mentioned—the depression in the depressed areas, in the South Wales valleys, the coalfields, and the ship-owning centres, and in various other parts of the country—and apply a patch upon the evil that the system has generated in those parts, you apply a means test to the individuals to whom you grant assistance. One of the objections we have to the payment of the subsidy to the tramp ship owners is that there is actually no distinction made as to the necessity.
While it may all be very well and good to say that over the whole area there is a certain amount of distress you apply the means test to individual cases, but in the tramp shipping industry companies which are not in actual dire distress, such as was made out when the subsidy was first passed, are now obtaining a share of the subsidy. They are companies which, in the main, do not require any portion of the subsidy at all. Our objection is to the lack of discrimination in the application of the subsidy to those who make application for it and to the manner in which the Board of Trade evidently screens breaches of the conditions laid down in the Financial Memorandum. The Board of Trade is the guardian of this subsidy, and, as a result of the committees that have been set up, has to satisfy itself that certain conditions are being met by the shipowners who desire the subsidy. The papers read by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) to-night, in spite of the suavity of the Parliamentary Secretary, show, without distinction, that either the Board of Trade is not paying sufficient interest to the application of the subsidy and the method by which the conditions are being fulfilled, or that there are some 1894 incompetent persons who are not supplying the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary with the whole of the facts.
§ Mr. Maclean
Certainly, I will. This is the fourth report of the Tramp Shiping Administrative Committee. It was presented by the President of the Board of Trade to the House of Commons, and at the foot of page II where it lays down the conditions for the payment of the subsidy, the Parliamentary Secretary will see these words:Strict compliance with National Maritime Board wages agreements has been required by the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee. It is satisfactory to recall the following statement by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade made in Parliament on 8th December, 1936:'There has been so far no case in which the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee have found it necessary to withhold their recommendation for payment of subsidy solely on the ground that the applicable agreements of the National Maritime Board have not been observed in respect of rates of wages. Certain cases have come to the Committee's notice, where the rates paid on a particular voyage to individual members of the crew were less than is required by the agreement applicable. In these cases the Committee, before recommending payment of subsidy for that voyage, have required owners to make the appropriate payments to the crew.
§ Mr. Maclean
I am very pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman say, "Hear, hear." The National Maritime Board conditions have to be applied and must be fulfilled in order to justify the Committee recommending the particular owner of a ship to receive a share of the subsidy. That case was quoted. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. He sat and listened to the cases we quoted, and whether he agrees with them or not is beside the question at the moment. They were submitted to the House.
§ Mr. Maclean
There were several cases—I have copies of them here. Evasive and contradictory replies were given to those cases by the hon. Gentleman's chief, the President of the Board of Trade. These cases were read out in the House, 1895 and yet the Parliamentary Secretary says there was only one case. I think that I know the case to which he refers. The case was that of the "Dumfries," which, I take it, is still under consideration.
§ Dr. Burgin
No, I was referring to the case of the "Baron Inchcape," which was the only case I heard, and to which I listened attentively, which dealt with the Maritime Board's wages. The "Dumfries" deals with the lascars.
§ Mr. Maclean
Is it not the case that the President of the Board of Trade himself when asked whether the Maritime Board agreement contains stipulations as to overtime, stated that he had drawn the attention of the Tramp Shipping Subsidy Committee to the matter, and on another occasion that he was not aware of any reason—[Interruption]. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade challenged a certain statement I made, and I am replying, if he will do me the courtesy of listening.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. Member may have some method of hearing that other Members of the House do not possess, but it is difficult for any one to sit and listen to another while a Member is pouring something into his ears. The President of the Board, after making a promise to have the matter attended to, and having stated that he had drawn the attention of the Board to it, in one of his replies, went on to say that he was not aware of any reason for consulting the Committee on this subject. I remember that it was said that lascar agreements are Indian Government agreements signed in India under the supervision of Indian Government representatives. Other cases submitted by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) on Monday dealt with practically the same cases of breaches by the employment of lascars, and the Parliamentary Secretary says he has only heard of one case. We will send him a copy of the document which I have here, if he desires it, and he will find that it is composed mainly of questions to himself and the President and of their replies to those questions. That, at last, should convince him, if my words do not, that there are more cases than the one to which he has referred.
1896 The conditions laid down are National Maritime Board rates, and it is going behind those conditions for the President of the Board of Trade or the Parliamentary Secretary to say that Indian Government agreements entered into by lascars can qualify a tramp shipowner who employs those lascars to receive a share of the subsidy. That is our point on these issues, and the Parliamentary Secretary cannot shake off his responsibility merely by shaking his head. The hon. Member for South Portsmouth (Sir H. Cayzer) defended the Clan Line, and one must appreciate that where one is interested he has a right to stand up for the particular company affected, if he thinks it is being conducted on proper lines. None of us on this side object in the least to the statements made by the hon. Member, and we accept them, but he must remember that he does not go into the whole story of the condition of the shipping companies of this country; he must remember what was said by an hon. Member behind him, that regulation was necessary, because of the anti-social conduct of the shipowners and their unpatriotic attitude during the War; and he must also remember that after the War many of the shipowners who had been placing orders for the building of new ships to replace ships sunk during the War cancelled those orders, because they were buying German shipping very much cheaper per ton, at about half the price that they were required to pay for new shipping built in the shipyards in our own country.
One of the Government conditions was that the ships bought should be reconditioned to suit the trade in which the shipowner was engaged, and it is all very well to tell us that the shipowners have been very harshly dealt with and have been suffering from world conditions. When the hon. Member for South Portsmouth tells us that the chief evil that they have to face to-day is competition from shipowning firms of other countries who are able to compete against British companies because of the subsidies paid by those foreign countries, does he wish the House to accept as a theory or a principle that we, in this House, must vote larger and still larger subsidies to the shipowners of this country, in order to enable them to face the competition of the subsidised foreign shipowners? That is the logical outcome 1897 of the argument and the reasons put forward by the hon. Member, and I submit that when an industry comes to this House asking for the continuation of a subsidy, we should have all particulars and information before us. We have not yet got that information, and we do not yet know how the subsidy has been apportioned among the shipowners during the past year. The most recent information that we have is for the year 1935, and I fail to see why there should be such an indecent haste on the part of the Board of Trade to rush this Subsidy Bill through in the early part of 1937 before they have given us their report for the year 1936, to let us know exactly how the money has been apportioned and which companies have got it and to enable us to analyse the expenditure that has taken place in the apportionment of that £2,000,000 subsidy.
The Financial Resolution also lays it down about the National Maritime Board rates, and I insist upon the point that lascars whose rates of pay are conditioned under some Government of India agreement are not under the National Maritime Board rates. Those rates are rates agreed upon by the Board of Trade. It was never believed by this House, when it passed the Financial Resolution and agreed to the conditions of the subsidy in the first place, that we were going to have other instances, other agreements, brought in to enable shipowners to qualify for these subsidies. I trust that the Board of Trade will go into this matter more fully than they have done in the past and will endeavour to get a straight policy and not bring before the House so many contradictory statements as to what is and what is not being done. I, therefore, hope that when the President of the Board of Trade does return, there will be consultation between him and the Parliamentary Secretary and their officials to arrange for a definite, clean, straight line of policy, which will be the acceptance throughout of the National Maritime Board rates, and that no deviation therefrom will be allowed by any tramp ship owner.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Barrie
I am sure that those who have taken part in this Debate will be grateful to the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) for his endeavour to bring the Debate back on to what I would call a proper platform.
1898 Unfortunately, on both sides of the House possibly, although perhaps naturally on one side more than on the other, there have been recriminations directed against certain owners of vessels who, fortunately or unfortunately, are in the position of being in this House and of having to defend themselves against attacks. We are at present discussing a Bill to help protect one of the greatest industries in the country, and I was glad to note, from the terms of the Amendment which has been moved by the party opposite, that they do admit the importance to the State of the Mercantile Marine and are prepared to grant it proper assistance. This is a business proposition and one would like it, if possible, taken out of the realm of politics, but where State funds are necessary for an industry obviously the question must come here. The business proposition which I suggest to the House is simply this, so far as this country is concerned: Do we wish to have a Mercantile Marine adequate for our needs or do we not? I think we all admit that an adequate Mercantile Marine is necessary. Therefore, I had hoped that the general trend of the Debate might have assumed a different aspect, more on the lines adumbrated by the hon. Member for the City of London.
There are no doubt many difficulties and inequalities. I sympathise very much with what the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) said about wages. There, I think, he was perfectly correct. In a great many cases the question of wages ought to be more closely looked into. Lascar seamen are very useful on certain vessels. The use of lascars in vessels running to the East really began in the early days when ships were not so well ventilated as now and it was found necessary in those very hot climates to use lascar seamen. No doubt in some cases it is necessary now that they should be used, but there are many cases where lascar seamen are used and where white seamen might be used. I know that there is some measure of profit as far as the owner is concerned, but in certain cases white seamen might be substituted.
Whatever the difficulties may be, and there are many difficulties, I come back to the question whether Britain wants a mercantile marine, ample, efficient and necessary for its needs. The House is in full agreement with me that that is 1899 so. The next thing we have to do is to find out the best means of attaining that desirable object. The tramp shipping subsidy has been in operation for two years. On principle I do not like subsidies, least of all for ships. Might I add that, like the hon. Member for the City of London, although I am a shipowner I do not touch one penny of the subsidy. My vessels do not get the subsidy. Therefore, to that extent I am better able to speak for those who have been in difficulties and for whom assistance is required. It has been amply proved that the tramp shipping subsidy has enabled the tramp shipping industry to keep on its feet. The position of British shipping as compared with the total amount of world tonnage is very small. From owning a very large proportion of the tonnage of the world we have sunk considerably. If the war had to come it was a good thing so far as our position in shipping was concerned that it came in 1914 and not to-day, otherwise we should not have had the vessels necessary to supply our needs. In 1914 I think we owned in this country 8,587 vessels and to-day we own only 6,891—vessels of all kinds. It is probably better to give the number of ships rather than the tonnage, because those who are not conversant with the shipping industry understand better what is meant when one gives the number of vessels rather than the tonnage.
I do not wish to take up unnecessarily the time of the House, but there is one aspect of the shipping industry to which I would refer, and that is in connection with shipbuilding. From reports which one has seen in the Press one would imagine that shipbuilding is now in a prosperous condition. That is far from being the case. At the present time 55 to 60 per cent. of the slips in the country are occupied, and if war were to break out to-morrow, which please God it may not, and more ships were required, there are not the facilities for turning out an adequate number of vessels. That statement applies not only to the slips but, unfortunately, to the men who build the vessels, of which there are too few at the present time. Although there are fewer facilities for building we have improved the methods of building by 3o per cent. and therefore that has compensated for the number of slips scrapped by the 1900 shipbuilders, but there are not sufficient facilities for turning out the number of vessels that we might require were we to suddenly find ourselves in need. In that and other ways the result is that vessels are dearer and shipowners who must use the depreciation funds which they set aside for shipbuilding, will use a very large proportion of the subsidy now earned in that way.
There is no business in the country which spreads its web through a greater variety of industries than shipbuilding. I have some figures, which I was fortunate to come across the other day, in connection with the amount of steel required for the building of the "Queen Mary." The "Queen Mary" required 50,000 tons of steel for her building, and 125,000 tons of coal were required for the manufacture of that steel. If one carries on that calculation throughout the shipbuilding industry one finds that this subsidy will do very much to help not only the tramp shipping and the shipbuilding industries, but the assistance filters through a large number of other trades. A battleship draws its requirements from 60 towns in Great Britain, ranging from Aberdeen to Southampton. Therefore, while we are discussing in narrow terms the question of the subsidy for tramp shipping, we ought to bear in mind that a very much larger question is concerned than simply the fact that a certain amount of money goes into the pockets of individual shipowners.
The hon. Member for the City of London referred to the fact that it is not the large shipowners who have benefited by the subsidy but the small shipowners. It has enabled them to keep their fleets at sea, otherwise they would have been laid up. I would ask the House to consider this question not from the narrow point of view as to the giving of the subsidy, but from the point of view of the great national question of assistance to a most vulnerable industry and a most necessary one to us at all times, an industry which gives employment to a large number of men, and is giving employment to a larger number of men because of the subsidy. At one time there were 309,000 tons of shipping, representing 126 vessels, laid up in this industry, but there are now only ten. It has also been stated that there are no white sailors now unemployed, whereas at one time there were 60,000 men walking the streets, a thing 1901 which the shipowners and the country as a whole must have deplored. Shipbuilding has been helped by the giving of the subsidy and as a result many other industries have benefited. I hope that the House will look at this matter not from the narrow point of view, but from the general point of view of assistance to one of the greatest industries in the country, and a most vulnerable and highly necessary one.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibbins
Those who represent shipping ports are naturally interested in the question of improving the shipping industry, and we are anxious to look at the matter in as broad a way as possible. To hon. Members on this side of the House industry means the men who carry on the work of the industry. To us the most substantial part of an industry are the thousands of men who have to earn their living by it. In this case we are interested in the thousands of men who earn their living on the sea. It would appear from some parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Southampton (Sir C. Barrie) that the industry was in a good condition, but the hon. and gallant Member for South Portsmouth (Sir H. Cayzer) talked as though it was on its last legs, that we were beaten all over the world and that nothing we could do, even this subsidy, would be of any benefit to the industry. But if we are going to give £2,000,000 of public money to the industry this House should have greater control on the expenditure and an assurance that the money is going to the firms which really need it. That is perfectly fair. If you lump all the tramp companies together, irrespective of any loss or gain they are making, and give them public money, you may find yourself giving large amounts of money to people who without the subsidy would be able to carry on fairly well, and this amount might very well have gone to increase the efficiency and usefulness of the badly hit firms. If you follow the argument of the hon. Member for South Portsmouth to its logical conclusion it would not be £2,000,000 but many more million pounds if it is going to do anything really good.
It is a rather sad confession that this great industry has to come and ask for £2,000,000 to keep going at all. If the excuse is that we have to compete with 1902 companies which are subsidised by foreign Governments from national funds, countries like Russia and Fascist countries, then sooner or later we shall have to face the question of bringing shipping more and more under Government control. The hon. Member for South Portsmouth referred to the carrying of lascar seamen. I listened carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary in his endeavour to get over the question of maritime rates of pay. He has said that the agreement allows the committee in lieu of the maritime agreement to take the agreement made by the Indian Government, although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has pointed out that these agreements are not made by the Indian Government, but between the captain of the ship and the seamen. We on this side of the House cannot see how it is possible to excuse the payment of half wages to lascar seamen because of some agreement signed in India. I have some little experience of sea life, and I have come to the conclusion that there are sailing in British ships not only lascars but Chinese as well. They are almost in slavery. When they are in this country they have no home, they are banded together, and generally controlled by bullies.
It is a pitiable sight to have to sail in ships with these poor creatures, who have neither soul nor will of their own. In Liverpool we have had many cases where they have absconded from their ships and become chargeable to the Poor Law authorities. I appreciate the statement that they are used on certain routes. I have sailed with British seamen and firemen in all parts of the world, and there is no part where British seamen and firemen cannot work equally well as, if not better than, any lascar or Chinese. That is not the reason why they are employed. They are employed because of their cheapness, because they can be bullied and driven into doing things which white seamen will not do. There are 60,000 British seamen walking the streets, and thousands who have been out of work for years. What are these men to do? Most of them are compelled to go to the public assistance authority. They are not fit to go on firing after years of unemployment. It is the hardest job I know in the world. These men were out of work long before the subsidy came along, because 1903 lascar and coloured seamen were employed. One would have thought that the hon. Member for South Portsmouth was performing a great patriotic duty in keeping his shipping company going by employing lascar seamen. It is nothing of the kind.
The reason for the present condition of the industry is its mismanagement and the scanty respect that is paid to a very fine body of men. I have never been able to understand why shipping companies flying the Union Jack displace their own countrymen in favour of naturalised Chinese or lascars. In the case of Liverpool it has meant that our rates have gone up by thousands of pounds. I say that shipowners have failed. It is no good talking about their great organising capacity, and, indeed, if we listen to the hon. Member for South Portsmouth the industry will need more than £2,000,000. The time is coming when the industry must stand on its own foundations or else there must be a different system of ownership and some definite control by this House. As a matter of fact, all the industries of the country are becoming pauperised. It seems that they cannot live without some assistance to carry them on.
We say that the shipowners have not been able to do their job, and that some change of system must be brought about. We say that the most important factor, which comes even before profits, is the livelihood of the workers. To-day the sailors get only 30s. a week. Can any hon. Member opposite imagine what it means to have only 30s. a week with which to keep a wife, six children and pay the rent? Do they hope to keep an industry going in that way? These poor fellows cannot get out of the rut in which they have got; they have to go to sea, and the only alternative is the public assistance committee. Many a time, as a member of a public assistance committee, I have been compelled to subsidise the wages, because they have been 10s. or 12S. below the parish scale. When the husband has been at sea, we have had to make the 30s. up to 42s. We have had to subsidise the shipowners in that way in order to help them to keep their business going. The first claim on the industry ought to be the men.
1904 There is one other point to which I would like to refer, and it is the accommodation of the men. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to go to sea in some of these tramp steamers. The men sometimes have to sleep about 20 or 30 together, with the water coming through the deck. I do not know what Hell is like, but I think the stokehold of a ship must be something like it. We have to look at this problem as a human problem and not one of profits. It is a great industry which deserves to be kept going, and nobody deserves better treatment than the men who keep it going to-day. No braver men ever went to sea. None of them funked or refused to sign on when they were needed in the submarines. They must have better accommodation and better wages for the work they do. The shipowners, when receiving this subsidy, should at least do something to improve the conditions in which these men have to work and live. They have to be at sea seven days a week; they cannot get home on Saturday nights and buy the "Football Echo" or the "News of the World" on Sunday. The shipowners should be more generous, and until the men are more adequately treated they should be content with the minimum of profit—nay, perhaps take no profit at all, until the workmen have been provided for adequately.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
I have only a few remarks to make, and in making them I ask for the indulgence of hon. Members, for it is some sessions since I had the honour of speaking in this House. I would like, first of all, to say that the terms of the Motion on the Paper are of a very worthy nature. To my mind, the Motion shows that we are very much of one mind in regard to the essential necessity for a prosperous mercantile marine. In my opinion, the whole question resolves itself into a part of the Co-ordination of Defence. The Defence of this country is inseparably wrapped up with the maintenance of a tramp shipping industry. During the last War we had the most unparalleled losses that have ever stricken any industry. Something like 8,000,000 tons of shipping out of 20,000,000 tons were destroyed by enemy action. Since that happened—and it may happen again—we have to remember that the weapons of offence in the air and 1905 under the sea have become more dangerous than they were during the last War. Therefore, if we should get into similar trouble in the future, we shall find that the menace to our shipping will be even worse than it was on the last occasion.
So many people have made the point already that I am only dotting the i's and crossing the t's when I remind the House of the tremendous necessity which exists for encouraging this industry by every possible means, and not allowing ourselves to be diverted from our efforts in that direction because there are faults, and, to my mind, serious faults in the running of the industry. The hon. Member who spoke last referred to the conditions under which the men in the industry have to work. I know something of those conditions. They are better now than they were formerly, but they are still in many ways disgraceful. Indeed, it is not possible to use strong enough language to describe the conditions almost of squalor under which the merchant seamen gallantly pursues his employment.
The fact that the industry lacks organisation and that the terms of service and the conditions of the men are not what they should be, ought not to deter us from providing this comparatively small and well-controlled subsidy for improving the efficiency of the service. If we were to seek unduly to control the subsidy now, the effect would be, at once, to undermine the confidence of shipowners and we should once more find this great industry sinking into apathy and decay. That is the very last thing we desire to see. As long as we remain an industrial highly-organised, populous country, very vulnerable to attack and becoming more and more vulnerable as time goes on, it behoves us to maintain a prosperous tramp shipping industry. It is an essential of our national life and the House ought to be unanimous in deciding that this subsidy is a vital necessity from a national standpoint.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
I cannot claim to speak with any authority on the subject, but I intervene because of two observations which I heard in the course of this very interesting Debate. I am sure the House was deeply moved, by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Toxteth (Mr. Gibbins), who understands 1906 the industry and knows the human side of the question. Hon. Members opposite, I am sure, will not have grudged my hon. Friend the opportunity of placing before the House of Commons the human side of the picture. The first observation which tempted me to intervene came from the Parliamentary Secretary, to whom we listen with pleasure because he always knows his subject, and even when he has a bad case makes the best of it. The hon. Gentleman criticised our reasoned Amendment because it expresses the view that none of this subsidy should flow into the profits of the shipping companies. He said it was unreasonable to argue that the subsidy should not be paid if some of it became profit. In other words the hon. Gentleman argued that this dole from the State—because that is what it is—would lose a great deal of its value if a need test were applied in connection with it. If you apply a need test, if you deny this assistance to the shipowner who is making a profit, then it appears you defeat the object of the subsidy.
May, I ask the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, will they please apply that principle to unemployed workers as well as to unemployed shipowners? I know of cases, and so do my hon. Friends, in which next week there will be a tiny change in the family circumstances in certain homes. A father who has been unemployed may get a job and be able to bring a few more shillings into the house, or a son may be in a, position to bring in a few more coppers. Because the, family passes that line between poverty and a bit of profit, the needs test is applied and, the subsidy is taken from the unemployed man. If the Government use the needs test fop the human wreckage of our industrial system, we are entitled to ask them to apply to, the others.
The second observation to which I want to refer was made in the interesting, quiet, well-reasoned speech of the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir. A. Anderson). He brought us back to the realities of this position. Why are we discussing tramp shipping? Because it is in distress. Why do we discuss South Wales and Durham? This Measure which we are discussing to-night is part of the picture of the problem of depression. Why is the shipping industry in distress? Because the trade of the world and the export trade of this country have met with disaster. Why are South Wales 1907 and Durham and all the areas that are called Special Areas in a bad way? Is it not for the same reason that the shipping industry is, as the hon. Member described it, a specially stricken industry? Is it not because the trade of the world has been throttled by tariffs and all those restrictions that are put in the way of trade? Therefore, he made a sound observation when he said that the real problem is how we can free and increase and improve the trade of the world. I know that the tramp shipping of this country has to face government-subsidised competition of other countries, and that the coal trade on its export side has to meet subsidised competition. No one has the right to ask products like coal and services like shipping to go out into the world to meet such competition subsidised only by the poverty of miners and seamen of this country.
We can meet that competition only by treating our services and commodities as Germany and other countries treat theirs. But this way will end in disaster for all of them. These subsidies on tramp shipping and the export trade must end. As the hon. Member for the City of London has said, subsidies are a bandage which, for the moment, will stop the patient from bleeding to death, but it will not enable the patient to recover full health. The only way to do that is to free the trade of the world. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us what the Government are doing in that direction. We cannot go on for ever paying subsidies. The Government cannot go on year after year coming to the House for this and that money in order to enable our trade to enter into this eternal competition with Germany and other countries. Are the Government taking any initiative in dealing with the main problem of freeing the trade of the world? We have joined the mad race; as a country we are as much under the influence of the fallacies of economic capitalism as any country in Europe. We have added our restrictions to the rest. We have joined in the mad race of trying to build walls around the country and throttle the trade of the world.
Recently there have been important pronouncements by chairmen of banks and by economists of note all of whom have warned the Government and the country that we allow our export trade 1908 to decline and to die at our peril, that we are rapidly approaching the stage when this boom, this prosperity of which we hear so much, but which is confined to trade within our own boundaries, will pass away. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but he knows very well that every export trade in this country is declining, that all this boom is due to rearmament and the artificial increase in the home trade. There have been warnings, not from myself or others on this side, but from those who support the Government, that the time is rapidly approaching when this boom will reach its peak, and when it begins to go down we shall find ourselves in Queer street. I am urging the Government to take steps immediately to do what is required to meet that situation, and if they give subsidies not to use them as an end in themselves but as a means towards freeing trade and increasing the export trade. Only by a growth of the export trade can we bring recovery to areas like South Wales.
I want to see new industries coming to South Wales and to Durham, everybody wants it, but we know very well that that is a long-term policy, that it is going to take some time before we are able to absorb into industry all the unemployed men in South Wales and Durham. If we could take any measures at the same time to restore in some way the export trade on which those areas were built up that is something we ought to do. I have intervened to join with those who have said that if these subsidies are to be given to industry they should be given on the same terms as to the workers. If they are to be applied let them be applied not as an end in themselves, but as a means by which the Government can use its position to free the trade of the world and in that way bring some relief to the Special Areas and the industries which are suffering.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Sir Henry Fildes
I wish to put a question to clarify my own mind on a statement made by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to make it clear, with regard to the money voted in this House which reaches India, whether it is or is not a fact that there is an agreement with the owners of Indian ships which enables those ships to go to sea with men who draw less 1909 wages than are stipulated for in the case of ships which sail from England. The statement has been definitely made, and I think the House would like to know whether that is the case or not, and I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary would make one of his usually clear and efficient statements on that point.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Captain Peter Macdonald
I do not intend to enter into any of the abstract arguments used by Members of His Majesty's Opposition. I intend to confine myself entirely to the general principles underlying this Bill. Listening to the arguments put forward by Socialist speakers one would be led to the impression that the Government have only one object in introducing this Measure to continue the subsidy, and that was to put money into the hands of prosperous shipowners all of whom were friends of the Government, and that nothing was going to supplement wages, or to improve the employment and working conditions of the men engaged in the industry. The reason I support the Measure whole-heartedly is that it does fulfil all those objectives. It may be true, as has been said, that some shipping companies that did not deserve the subsidy have obtained it, but that is a question to be dealt with by the President of the Board of Trade, who knows the full facts. To use the argument that because a shipping company, or any other company, is prosperous, it should be excluded from subsidy, is most fallacious. If that line were followed, the Board of Trade would have to wait until an industry were completely bankrupt before they did anything to assist it. They would encourage inefficiency and incompetence instead of what we think they ought to do, encourage efficiency and competence, and give the efficient company the same chance and opportunity as an incompetent one.
The question which we have to ask ourselves to-night is whether the Government are justified in providing for the continuation of the shipping subsidy to this branch of the mercantile marine. I contend that they are fully justified in doing so, and that if they did not do so they would be lacking in fulfilment of their duty. The subsidy provided last year has undoubtedly done a great deal to bring greater prosperity and greater co-ordina- 1910 tion to the industry, to provide new tonnage to replace the redundant tonnage, to provide employment for thousands of men and better wages and better working conditions for thousands who, for years, have been obliged to walk the streets of this country unemployed. For those reasons alone I think the Government are fully justified in providing this Measure, with all the conditions which are attached to it, and making it absolutely imperative that no company that did not fulfil the most stringent conditions laid down by the Board of Trade should receive this subsidy from public funds.
What alternatives to this Measure are put forward by the Opposition? They say that the subsidy should be restricted to certain companies, and that no company showing a respectable balance sheet should receive it. I have dealt with that argument before, and I know that it is completely fallacious and unworkable. The other alternative, as hon. Members have said, is the nationalisation of the industry. After all the experiments which we have before us from Australia, Canada, and the United States of America, where hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent and lost in nationalising this particular industry, surely no hon. Member, and nobody outside a lunatic asylum, would ask this country to use that method of trying to resuscitate an industry in this country. They point to the fact that other nations have adopted nationalisation, but the only mercantile marine that is nationalised to-day is the Russian mercantile marine. Would any Member of the Opposition dare stand up, either here or in his constituency, and ask his constituents, or any sailor in this country, to accept the wages or working conditions which are imposed upon Russian sailors to-day? I am convinced that they would not do that, because, whatever may be said about the conditions in our mercantile marine—and I do not uphold them whole-heartedly; there is great room for reform—at any rate they are not working, as Russian seamen are, for 3os. a month, and they have conditions far superior to those of any Russian seaman. In these circumstances I think an ample case has been made out for the continuation of the subsidy under certain conditions, and that no case at all has been made out for nationalisation or any other alternative that has been put forward to-night.
§ 10.42. p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
I should like to associate myself with what has been said by the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff), and another of my hon. Friends who, spoke so sincerely and truthfully on, behalf of the sailors of the mercantile marine. I think I have some claim to speak on behalf of those for whom, wore than for the shipowners, voices require to be raised, namely, the seamen. Something has been said about the appalling conditions, not only of the lascars, but of the white seamen, in what are sometimes called, even by enlightened shipowners, the "slums of the sea." Those conditions, in ships where lascars and white men are working together, cannot be confined to the lascars' quarters only.
I have some claim to speak on behalf of the seamen, because my own constituency is, a constituency of seamen. They have an age-old tradition as sailors, as mariners, as adventurers. From the days of the Vikings right down to, the present time these people have followed the sea, they have depended upon the sea, and they have sailed to the farthest ends of the earth. That constituency to-day must be regarded, as an, hon. Member on the other side said the shipping industry must be regarded, as a distressed area. Only a short time ago we had a Debate in this House on the subject of the distress in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and it is to the fact that a sufficient number of our island-born seamen are not able, or are not encouraged by the conditions, to follow their natural calling of the sea, that in a large measure the distress from which the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are suffering to-day is due.
Nobody, can underestimate the services which these men, in peace and in war, have given to the nation, but what people have done—I refer particularly to the shipowners—is to underestimate the reward that ought to be given to these men in time of peace for what they did for the country, not only in time of peace, but in time of war. All the reward they get is possibly a little praise in this House and a little praise outside this House, but they cannot live on a little praise alone. We on this side are just as eager as hon. and right hon. Members opposite to see Britain with a properly equipped, 1912 efficient and sufficient Navy and merchant service; we are just asxious that Britain should lead the world in these respects as any Member on the other side of the House. But we are compelled to raise our voices, as so many hon. Members opposite do not do, with notable exceptions, on behalf of those who are not properly organised to speak for themselves and are not represented in this House in a, majority, as the shipowners are.
We recognise the importance of the merchant service, more important in time of war even than in time of peace, and just as important as the naval service. The Navy is really a protective and emergency defence service, but tramp shipping is a part of that service which, along with agriculture, is one of the most vital of all and on which we depend in peace and war for feeding the nation. While we are all agreed on the importance of the shipping industry, sufficient emphasis is not laid on what must be recognised as the most important part of the shipping service, and that is the seamen. It is they who have built up the merchant service and on whom we depend to run tramp shipping, and, they are the people who should have first consideration and for whom first provision ought to be made in any subsidy. The conditions in which they work are among the least attractive of any, in the country. They are asking for very ordinary things. They, are not even asking for; short hours but only for a decent arrangement of the hours during which they work and sleep. They are asking for nourishing and attractive food, which in many cases they do not get. They are asking for proper accommodation on the ships that are referred to as the slums of the sea.
There are many cases of the "Crescenta" kind. Those ships do not all sink. They ought to be sunk, but I do not think that the lives of the sailors ought to be sacrificed in the process. I think Members on all sides will agree that the most important considerations in any industry are the wages and condition of the workers, without whom the industry could not be carried on, and if an industry cannot afford to pay proper wages and give proper conditions it should be smashed. I am not referring to the shipping industry as a whole but to individual companies which, if they cannot pay proper wages to the workers, 1913 who are indispensable to them, should be put out of operation. They should not be dished out doles of money without proper conditions and control. Any decent human being has a right to decent food, accommodation and arrangement of hours, and above all the workers in an indispensable and dangerous calling. The workers are the salt of the earth. Well, the seamen are the salt of the sea.
If the calling of the sea loses its savour the Government will have to consider carefully and urgently how it is to be made more attractive. Men in our seaport towns are not now attracted to the sea, and if we are to keep our merchant ships at the proper level of efficiency, properly equipped with a sufficient supply of well-trained sailors, we must make conditions more attractive for them. We are not doing that by handing out subsidies to the owners of the ships. We can only do it by laying down as the first essential that the conditions and wages of the sailors must be improved before anything goes into profits for anyone else.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Colonel Ropner
I had hoped to devote some part of the beginning of my speech to showing how important it is for this country to maintain an adequate mercantile marine in peace and war. But the hour is late, the Parliamentary Secretary has been very patient, and in any case there has been general agreement in all quarters that in times of peace and war it is essential that we should maintain a large merchant navy. It was with these considerations in mind that about three years ago the Government and the country were shocked to realise that the mercantile marine, both actually and relatively, was rapidly shrinking. The tonnage sailing under the Red Ensign was less, and compared with the merchant navies of other nations we were falling short in proportionate strength. It was in these circumstances that the Government was compelled to take action, not only for the safety of the nation, but also because of a realisation of the absolute obligation which falls on any Government to protect an efficient and important national industry which is being ruined by unfair foreign competition.
After a full inquiry, with a means test of a rigorous and searching description, 1914 it was established that the British shipping industry was entirely efficient but that British owners and managers, their officers, engineers, seamen and firemen, were being forced to meet but were powerless against foreign competition of an unfair kind. That competition was unfair for three main reasons. There was, in the first place, gross discrimination in favour of their own flags by foreign nations; in the second place wages on foreign ships were much lower than those paid on British ships, in some cases not more than one-quarter of the British rates, and for that reason running costs of foreign vessels were much lower; and there was the third reason that foreign nations were giving high subsidies, direct and indirect, to the ships sailing under their flags. No claim was ever made by shipowners for State asistance on the ground that there was internal competition. The industry was in no way responsible for that foreign competition, and I would ask the House to note that shipping was suffering from competition very similar in kind to that which necessitated the protection of manufacturing industries, but that owing to the peculiar nature of the shipping industry, it was not possible, perhaps unfortunately, to protect it by a direct tariff.
I would ask the House to notice also that the unfair conditions to which I have referred are entirely independent of whether the industry is enjoying good times or suffering from bad times. If times are good the foreigner will make a higher profit; if times are bad the foreigner will sustain a lower loss. In either case, the foreign competitor ever grows stronger in relation to the Britisher. I submit for the very careful consideration of the Government that, if it wishes the British mercantile marine to compete on level terms with the subsidised foreigner, it should have recognised that, in the first place, the subsidy must continue as long as our ships are trading at an unfair disadvantage without it. It follows from that, in the second place, if the Government are desirous, as the shipowners are, of discontinuing the subsidy, that they should have done, and ought now to do, whatever is possible to bring about conditions under which this payment is no longer necessary.
It was two years ago, because of the conditions which I have mentioned and in order to prevent the British mercantile 1915 marine from being swept from the seas, that the Government announced a temporary and conditional subsidy of £2,000,000 for a year. For a time at least British shipping was to be put on terms of equality with foreign competitors. But the fact that unfair foreign competition would continue until the advantages which foreign owners at present enjoy, had, by some means, been eradicated, has never really been faced by the Government. The President of the Board of Trade has never looked more than 12 months ahead. I would have asked the President of the Board of Trade if he had been here this question. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to give me the reply, if I ask him. Does he suppose that fair trade can be established for British shipping merely by the expression of a fervent hope that such will be the case? Does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade expect that foreign Governments will voluntarily cease to subsidise their shipping? Does the Government expect that foreign wages will be increased? Does the Government expect that discrimination against the Red Ensign will end at the end of 1937, when, we have been told, the subsidy will end?
If the subsidy, as we were informed two years ago, is to meet subsidies, why then has it been announced that it must be discontinued at the end of this year? The £4,000,000 which tramp shipping has received has been of the utmost value to that section of the industry. I do not want to disguise that fact for one moment. On more than one occasion I have told this House all that that money has done for tramp shipping, and indeed it would be absurd to suppose that you could give such a large amount of money to an industry without some benefit having accrued both to owners and to seamen, but no permanent result has been achieved. The brave words of the President of the Board of Trade have been translated into a defeatist policy. When other nations were sweeping the Red Ensign from the seas, and in face of continual foreign subsidies of tens of millions of pounds, the Government, tentatively and somewhat timidly, announced a subsidy for British shipping of £2,000,000 for one year, but in giving the subsidy they enforce conditions which not only prevented British ships from 1916 seizing lost markets, but led to a further diminution in the size of the British Mercantile Marine. Conditions which in fact have helped the foreign owners as much as they have helped British owners.
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who has just come into the House and for whom I have been looking all day, has accused me on more than one occasion of coming here and asking for a continuation of the subsidy. I have told him that shipowners are desirous of terminating the subsidy, and he has naturally asked that I should put forward an alternative policy to that which is being followed to-day. It has not been the right occasion to do so previously, but I hope to fulfil his wish this evening. First of all, however, may I remind the House of what the Government actually have done and of the conditions which they imposed? It has been the manner of giving the subsidy which has been so shamefully short-sighted. In effect, the Government have said to shipowners, "We will give tramp shipping a subsidy, but it must not be dissipated. You shipowners must co-operate, both nationally and internationally. You must not hurt your foreign competitors. You must try to make profits. You must ignore the fact that if you do make profits under these conditions, the foreigner will probably be making still greater profits. You must not have too many ships. Let other nations build ships, but if we are to help you, you must scrap two tons of old tonnage for every one new ton which you order." The Government added: "As to liners and cargo liners, they can look after themselves."
I do not deny that that policy was welcomed by some, indeed by many shipowners. But drowning men do not take a very long view. Many shipowners had got under the ice. They clutched at a little more life—a £2,000,000 gulp of oxygen. Now, the Government have announced that they are going to push them under again, but before doing so they have ensured by the policy which has been followed for the last two years that a few stones have been placed in the pockets of these unfortunate, drowning shipowners. The Government could have broken the ice and have rendered further help unnecessary. The President of the Board of Trade insisted that profits should be made where possible, instead of ensuring that the subsidy be used as a 1917 fighting fund to drive foreign competitors out of business. Dividends have been paid, wages have been raised, conditions have been improved but running costs have been increased—all stones round the neck of shipping. I am sorry that conditions have made it possible to do any of these things during the last two years. That, if you like, is dissipating the subsidy. Meanwhile, those who desire, as I do, to see conditions established which shall lead to a termination of the subsidy, have been denied the elementary right of fighting the foreigners who have stolen British trade.
Do the Japanese scrap two tons of old shipping before they assist their nationals to build one? Are the Americans cooperating in the Pacific? Are the Japanese co-operating with British owners in the India trade? The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, South (Sir H. Cayzer) has given case after case where the foreigner is filching trade from British owners. What an opportunity has been missed! Conditions some months ago were ideal for a fight. The rates of freight were then at starvation level. A larger subsidy, but not very much larger, for a shorter time, applied in a different way, could have brought permanent results. Why could not the Government have said to the shipping industry—and this is where I hope to indicate an alternative policy which would have led to the termination of the subsidy—"We are going to give you a subsidy. You have been fighting a losing battle alone. Now, we are going to help you. Other nations may be strong or weak financially, but we believe that no nation is stronger than ours in that respect." They could have said to shipowners: "Go into your markets. Under-cut those who have been stealing from you. If foreign subsidies have cheated you of trade, we will ensure that you are able to out-cheat the cheats. Bring out your old ships, put the whole of your fleet into commission, build new ships, do not scrap any ship but run them in all trades, everywhere and at any price." Having said that, they would have had to say also: "Do not talk now of higher wages. Do not talk now of returns on capital. We are fighting. All engaged in the industry, from the managing director to the latest joined office boy on shore, from the master of the ship to the latest joined 1918 cabin boy afloat, are in the battle and we are going to see you through."
Having said that, as I still hope they may, when the foreigner cries for mercy, when international agreements have been reached, when we can compete permanently on equal terms, then the subsidy can stop, and we shall lead the world again in returns to both capital and labour. I once asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he would describe the subsidy as an offensive or a defensive subsidy, and I think that he replied that he could not bother to distinguish between the two. I wish that he had. Had the subsidy been administered offensively, had we been empowered to fight those who have fought us for so many years, we could have achieved permanent results. As it is, this country has not yet begun to solve those problems, which unless some solution is found will lead to the virtual extermination, the annihilation of the British mercantile marine.
§ 11.13 p.m.
§ Dr. Burgin
I can reply only by leave of the House, but as questions have been addressed to me I gather that it is the wish of hon. Members that I should endeavour to answer them. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Barkston Ash (Colonel Ropner), I think he may take it that if foreign nations do not learn from experience that uneconomic shipping subsidies bring troubles in their train, other measures must be taken to make the lesson clearer and that the resources of the British Government are by no means exhausted. The House is discussing the Second Reading of the British Shipping (Continuance of Subsidy) Bill, and a reasoned Amendment put forward by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). His constant reference to the hon. Member for Rotherhithe (Mr. Benjamin Smith) reminded us all that we were under the shadow of Big Ben.
There seems to be a good deal of confusion in the minds of hon. Members with regard to the position of lascar crews, and a good deal has been said to-night which is years out of date, and which, perhaps, it is necessary to clarify. Speaker after speaker has been addressing the House as if there were something improper about the employment of lascar crews, and as if the employment of lascar 1919 crews came under the National Maritime Board. Let us just understand the position. The employment of a large number of lascars in the British mercantile marine is of very long standing. It has special Statutory sanction. If hon. Members will read through Section 125 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, they will find the whole circumstances of the employment of lascars set out in detail, and they will see that there was a number of earlier Acts. Lascars, many of whom are British subjects—and it is a cardinal rule of the Government that you cannot distinguish between different British subjects by colour, race, creed or residence—are employed in the way I have said. They are signed on, as a general rule, in India, under the special provisions of this Section of the Act. It is the case that they are paid lower rates of wages per head than are British seamen signed on in the United Kingdom.
I am informed that there are additional costs incurred in the employment of a lascar crew—additional costs for food, costs for warm clothing and the obligation to repatriate them at the end of the voyage. They are employed on a number of routes. They are employed by vessels which trade, among other routes, between ports where British crews are not available and under climatic conditions which are not suitable for white seamen. The whole matter has been debated at length, and I would refer hon. Members to the Debate on the Committee stage of the British Shipping Assistance Bill on 10th December, 1934. So much for the actual employment of lascars. What has the employment of lascars to do with the present Debate? It is alleged by hon. Members opposite that lascars, if employed, should be paid the European rates of wages. That is quite untenable.
§ Mr. Benjamin Smith
It was the hon. Gentleman himself who informed me, in reply to a question I put, that the lascars employed were paid European rates. He made that assertion.
§ Dr. Burgin
The hon. Member is misinformed. On 17th December—he will correct me at once if I am not referring to his question—the hon. Member asked me a question relating to the crew of the "Dumfries," but it raised the general question. He asked whether the 1920 rates of pay given to the lascar seamen and firemen are in accord with the decisions of the National Maritime Board, and the reply was:The National Maritime Board decisions as to rates of wages do not apply to the lascar crew who were engaged in India on lascar agreements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th December, 1936; col. 2635, Vol. 318.]
§ Dr. Burgin
Well, we will see. In the Debate on the Committee stage of the first Subsidy Bill, in December 1934, Amendments were moved by hon. Members opposite, first as to National Maritime Board rates of wages, and secondly to the effect that there should be a definite proportion of British domiciled seamen. Neither Amendment found favour with the House, but the matter was debated at length. There are, in fact, no National Maritime Board agreements relating to lascars engaged in India. The Subsidy Committee require, with regard to employment on ships qualifying for subsidy, first that British crews should be employed wherever possible, and secondly, that National Maritime Board rates of wages should be paid whenever applicable—I would ask the House to note those words—which means that there are some cases where the National Maritime Board rates of wages are not applicable. The third stipulation is compliance with all the relevant agreements of the National Maritime Board, such as those relating to the number of deck officers and the agreement as to hours of work.
§ Dr. Burgin
On the contrary. I am attempting to deal quite simply with a position which I thought had been clarified in 1934 and which I thought had been perfectly plain to the whole House ever since. There is not, and as far as I know never has been, a National Maritime Board rate of wages applicable to a lascar crew engaged in India under a 1921 lascar agreement. It is for that reason that when the undertaking was given that in order to qualify for subsidy National Maritime Board rates of wages should be payable, the words, "when applicable" were added. Whatever the opinion of certain hon. Members opposite may be, that is the practice which has been followed, and I believe it to be impossible for any hon. Member opposite to find a National Maritime Board agreement which relates to a lascar crew engaged outside the United Kingdom.
§ Dr. Burgin
I do not want to carry on this discussion on a kind of Punch and Judy system, but I want the House to understand that Section 125 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, has no such provision in it as the hon. Member opposite, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield appeared to suggest. References were made in the speeches to-day to the fact that agreements signed under the Government of India did not appear to be made with representatives of the men, but rather to be made between the men and the masters.
§ Dr. Burgin
Under Section 125 of the Act of 1894, the master or owner of any ship may enter into an agreement with a lascar—not an association of lascarsor any native of India binding him to proceed to any port in the United Kingdom or in Australia and the agreement is to be in such form and contain such conditions for securing the return of the lascar or native to his own country as the Governor-General of India in Council may direct. There is nothing about an association of men.
§ Dr. Burgin
The general form of the agreement is to be laid down by the Government of India and the agreement is then made between the lascar and the master.
§ Dr. Burgin
I am much obliged to the Noble Lord and I agree that that is so. That is the broad principle with regard to lascars. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield dealt with two ships, the "Baron Inchcape" and the "Dumfries," and it is only right that I should say something about those cases.
It will be within the recollection of the House that the right hon. Member for Wakefield made this point: How could a British officer on a British ship be paid something less than the National Maritime Board rate of wages inadvertently? The right hon. Gentleman made great play with the word "inadvertently." He was wholly sceptical that such a set of conditions could arise. What are the facts? An owner has four ships, broadly speaking, of the same size, something over 6,000 tons. One has a shelter deck and by a system of calculation is classed as having a gross tonnage of 7,005. There is a different rate of wages at the 7,000 gross tons limit. There are four boats as like as four peas, and it is found by the Subsidy Committee that the rates of wages ought to be different on the fourth from the remaining three because of the five tons gross difference due to the shelter deck. That was an inadvertence in payment, but the Subsidy Committee were not satisfied with calling the shipowners' attention to it and saying, "This has got to be rectified." They said, "No subsidy until you pay, and no subsidy until you have proved you have paid." The endorsed cheques for the payments of those wages were produced before the subsidy was released. If the right hon. Gentleman can find cause for grumbling in that, he is welcome to the opportunity. It was a clear case of inadvertence, and that is the case that has been paraded before the House of Commons as an instance of unwillingness on the part of shipowners to pay wages at the National Maritime Board rates.
In regard to the "Dumfries," the facts as put by the right hon. Member for Wakefield were these. A vessel—the "Cromarty"—comes from India with an Indian lascar crew. The "Dumfries" has a white British crew. On arrival in this country the "Cromarty" is sold. The white crew 1923 of the "Dumfries" are discharged, the officers remain, and the lascar crew of the "Cromarty" are transferred to the "Dumfries." These are the broad facts. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that that is an instance of white people being discharged to their detriment, and of lascars being engaged in circumstances in which a white crew might have been engaged. Let the House understand the position. The owner of the "Cromarty" is under obligation, by the agreement he has signed in India, to repatriate his lascar crew to India. He has to get them back by sea to India. The agreement has still 15 months to run. What is he going to do? Pay passenger rates for them to go by P. & O.? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] He does not, because he has a ship of his own, the "Dumfries," and it would be more interesting and convincing had the right hon. Gentleman been able to say that a single one of those white seamen did not find employment at the port at which they were discharged. The fact that they are not unemployed at this day shows that they did. The "Dumfries" sailed from the Bristol Channel for the Plate. It is an unusual trip. Whether she is outward bound with coal I do not know, I have not yet had an opportunity of calling for the file to see the particular circumstances in which the "Dumfries" sailed. The fact that her lascar agreement has another 15 months to run shows that there is an opportunity of trading before repatriation takes place.
Those are the whole facts of the "Cromarty" and of the "Dumfries." Many of them have been mentioned before in the course of question and
§ answer across the Floor of the House, but I thought it right to call the attention of the House to them.
§ There have been other speeches dealing with other aspects of this matter. No one will quarrel with the speeches of the hon. Members who have laid great stress on the important part played by the shipping industry. Do not let us forget that although it is true that a ship cannot go to sea without seamen it is equally true that seamen cannot go to sea without a ship, and some regard must be had to capital considerations, not only the capital needed for the building of the ship but working capital for running it.
§ Government control and nationalisation have raised their heads in this Debate. The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Captain P. Macdonald) gave some instances. If the House will give me half a minute I would like to remind hon. Members of what happened in the United States. In the five years from 1917 to 1922 2,300 vessels built for the United States Government, a large proportion of the fleet always laid up and in 1935 only 40 vessels in operation. In 1928 the operating loss 16,000,000 dollars for the year; in 1929 14,000,000 dollars; in 1935 2,000,000 dollars. The decrease in the operating loss was not brought about by running ships at a profit, but by selling large blocks of the tonnage.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 176; Noes, 101.1925
|Division No. 70.]||AYES.||[11.33 p.m.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bull, B. B.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Cross, R. H.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Burgin, Dr. E. L.||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Butler, R. A.||Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||De Chair, S. S.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Cartland, J. R. H.||De la Bère, R.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Cary, R. A.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Doland, G. F.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Dugdale, Major T. L.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Channon, H.||Duggan, H. J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Clarke, F. E.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Bottom, A. C.||Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Clarry. Sir Reginald||Elliston, Capt. G. S.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Errington, E.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Cranborne, Viscount||Everard, W. L.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Crooke, J. S.||Fleming, E. L.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Furness, S. N.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Rowlands, G.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||McKie, J. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Markham, S. F.||Scott, Lord William|
|Guy, J. C. M.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Hanbury, Sir C.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Spens. W. P.|
|Hepworth, J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cironcester)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Storey, S.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Munro, P.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Hopkinson, A.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Patrick, C. M.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Hunter, T.||Peake, O.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Jackson, Sir H.||Peat, C. U.||Touche, G. C.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Penny, Sir G.||Turton, R. H.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Petherick, M.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Porritt, R. W.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Kimball, L.||Procter, Major H. A.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Radford, E. A.||Wells, S. R.|
|Leckie, J. A.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Levy, T.||Rathbone. J. R. (Bodmin)||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Llewellin, Lieut-Col. J. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Raid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Renter, J. R.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Sir James Blindell and Mr. James|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Stuart.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Griffiths, G. A. (Homsworth)||Ridley, G.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Riley, B.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Ritson, J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rowson, G.|
|Barr, J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Seely, Sir H. M|
|Batey, J.||Hopkin, D.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jagger, J.||Short, A.|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Simpson, F. B.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, Ben (Rothorhithe)|
|Buchanan, G.||Kelly, W. T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cape, T.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cassells, T.||Lathan, G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-la-Sp'ng)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cooks, F. S.||Logan, D. G.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dalton, H.||Lunn, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McEntee, V. La T.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Walker, J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Watkins, F. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Marshall, F.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Maxton, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Messer, F.||Whiteley, W.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Milner, Major J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Foot, D. M.||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Frankel, D.||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Parkinson, J. A.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Pethick-Lawrenee, F. W,||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Gibbins, J.||Potts, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Price, M. P.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Pritt, D. N.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, D R.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Mr. Mathers and Mr. John.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Monday next.—[Captain Margesson.]