§ 43. Sir J. Mellor
asked the Minister of Transport why British owners are prohibited from selling old ships to foreign buyers whereas new ships are being built in Britain to foreign orders; and why, exceptionally, the Admiralty Marshal was authorised to offer for sale to foreign buyers the cargo steamer "Empire Sentinel," ex-"Phaedra," built in 1898, at Bremerhaven.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Barnes)
The shortage of tonnage under our control makes it necessary to retain in United Kingdom ownership any ship that can be used. Production of ships for export is an important activity of our shipbuilding yards, as well as the building of the ships ordered by British shipowners. The "Empire Sentinel," an ex-German prize ship, was sold in February, 1947, to a foreign buyer because she was too old and in too bad condition to justify the considerable expenditure required to recondition her. She is not now a British ship. The present transaction relates to an offer for sale 'by public auction by order of the High Court, Admiralty Division, on account of a debt owing to the repairers.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Would it not be better to keep the new ships under the British flag and sell the old ships to the foreigners while there is a market for them?
§ Sir J. Mellor
Has not the right hon. Gentleman said that many new ships are being sold to foreign buyers at the present time? Could we not keep them and sell the old ones?
§ Mr. Barnes
I think the hon. Member knows the value of our shipbuilding industry and the maintenance of our shipbuilding capacity for the world as well as for the shipowners of this country.