§ 8. Captain Peter Macdonald
asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of foreign ships transferred to the British register in the last six months, giving in each case the country with which they were previously registered; whether any special action was taken in any of these cases to ensure that the transfer was genuine and not merely a matter of convenience to the owners; and whether in all such transfers investigations are made as to the number of British seamen employed on such ships?
I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the particulars for which he asks. In each case the owners are required to make a statutory declaration that they are qualified under the Merchant Shipping Acts to own a British ship, and no certificate of registry is issued until the Registrar is satisfied on this point. Registration is independent of the nationality of the crew, but once registration is effected, the ship must comply with the appropriate statutory requirements regarding the employment of British masters, officers and seamen.
§ Following are the particulars:
§ During the six months ended 30th September, 1937, 148 foreign ships were transferred to the British register and permanently registered as British ships. Their previous countries of registry were as follow:
§ In addition, 51 foreign ships were reported as having been transferred to the British flag at foreign ports, and were granted provisional certificates of British registry, but information as to their previous foreign registry is not available.
9. Captain A. Evans
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he proposes to take any action to revise the system under which foreign-owned ships with foreign crews can be registered as British and obtain the protection of the British Navy, provided certain technical conditions can be fulfilled, or what other methods he proposes to adopt to check the abuse of British shipping registration law in connection with the hostilities in Spain?
§ 34. Mr. Crowder
asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of Greek and other foreign steamers transferred to the British flag during the nine months ended 30th September, 1937; and whether, as such ships, as long as they do not call at ports within the United Kingdom, do not have to carry a single man of British 706 nationality on board or to comply with Board of Trade regulations which apply to any British ships entering such ports, and yet may expect to receive the full protection of the British Navy, he will take steps to amend the present system under which virtually foreign vessels can obtain the benefits of British registration?
During the nine months ended 30th September, 1937, 200 foreign ships were transferred to the British flag and permanently registered as British ships. Of these, seven were transferred from the Greek flag. In addition, 51 ships were granted provisional certificates of British registry, but complete information as to the previous flags of these ships is not available. As regards the remaining parts of the questions, I would refer to the full statement I made in answer to the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) on 28th October.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the British flag can be flown after a provisional certificate of registry has been issued, and is he aware of the grave damage done to the good name of Britain by this practice?
This is undoubtedly a very difficult matter, but the hon. Member, when he sees the answer which I gave to a question last week, will realise that within the existing law we have found it possible to take administrative action which has proved, I think, fully effective for the purpose which both he and I have in view.
But do not those figures include some British capitalists who have registered their ships under foreign flags in the past, and now find it more convenient to come back?
It may be that there are some included in this 200—I could not say—but that is not the type of case which has so much excited my hon. Friends.