HC Deb 15 May 1950 vol 475 cc841-2
31. Mr. J. R. Bevins

asked the Minister of Food to what extent it is his policy to charter Russian ships to carry food cargoes to Britain when British shipping is available.

Mr. Webb

To the extent required by normal commercial practice.

Mr. Bevins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that owing to the difference in conditions, rates of pay and of taxation, it is most unreasonable to expect British tramps to compete with the Soviet-owned ships?

Mr. Webb

So far this year we have chartered only two Russian vessels.

Mr. Peter Smithers

Does not the Minister appreciate that in this matter he is not in the same position as an ordinary private trader, and that when he charters Soviet ships it is taken to be an act of policy on the part of the Government? Will he try to base his transactions upon that criterion?

Mr. Webb

I myself should like to keep politics out of this and to settle our requirements on purely commercial grounds.