HC Deb 05 July 1938 vol 338 cc179-81
54 and 56. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) what are the regulations in regard to the registration of British shipping; and whether, in view of the considerable uneasiness which is felt in some quarters that the British flag is being exploited by foreign opportunists, he will consider tightening up the regulations with a view to making it increasingly difficult to do so in the future;

(2) whether he will consider giving the closest examination to the claims of all foreign ships which desire to be classed as British; and whether he will consider removing from the British registry the names of those which failed to be mainly owned and manned by British subjects?

Mr. Stanley

The statutory requirements relating to the registration of British ships

and further, how many of these vessels for the years mentioned were of foreign and British registration, respectively, together with their respective gross tonnage?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Oliver Stanley)

As the answer involves a table of figures, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Craven-Ellis

In view of the fact that the British Mercantile Marine are losing many of the trade routes, cannot something be done to endeavour to restore the British Mercantile Marine?

Mr. Stanley

Both subjects of the British Mercantile Marine are down for discussion on Friday.

Following is the answer:

are contained in Part I of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894. For the reasons explained in answer to the hon. Member for Southampton (Mr. Craven-Ellis) on 28th October last, I am not prepared to propose any alteration in the existing law of registry. As the House has been previously informed, special steps have been taken since August last to examine with particular care all applications for British registry with a view to securing full compliance with the law.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Can my right hon. Friend say whether before a ship receives British registration she is inspected by officials from the Board of Trade to see whether she complies with the British Board of Trade standard of regulations?

Mr. Stanley

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will put that question on the Order Paper.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Am I to understand that that is not the practice to-day?

Mr. Stanley

I have answered the question on the Order Paper. Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will put down any further question?

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Will the right hon. Gentleman lay the canard once and for all and state that when a ship receives the registry of this country for all intents and purposes it is a British ship and is entitled to the same protection as any other British ship?

Mr. Stanley

All the more reason that we should scrutinise every application that we receive.

55. Sir F. Sanderson

asked the President of the Board of Trade the date on which the British ship "Thorpeness," which was sunk in a Spanish port, was registered, and the name of the company by which it was owned?

Mr. Stanley

The steamship "Thorpeness" was registered as a British ship on 17th July, 1914, and at the time of her sinking was owned by the Westcliff Shipping Company, Limited.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that only one member of the board of directors is British and that 98 per cent. of the capital is held by foreign nationals, and does he consider that such a ship is, in fact, British in the true sense and interpretation of the word?

Mr. Stanley

I have seen the reports to which my hon. Friend refers, and I believe them to be accurate, although I think the percentage of shares held by non-British members is rather greater than 98 per cent. The ownership of capital has never been the determining factor in the registration of British ships. I would remind the House on that very important question, that before the War, for instance, the White Star Line, whose share capital was largely held abroad, was registered under the British flag, and we had every reason in 1914 to be thankful that that was so.

Mr. Thurtle

May I ask whether it is not a fact that capital has no nationality?