§ Mr. GOLDSTONE
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether steamers are being built with starred labour in this country for neutral firms; whether in the terms of contract in such cases provision is made for the possibility of the British Government claiming such steamers at any stage in their construction; and, if so, whether, in view of the shortage of British commercial tonnage and the consequent increase in freight charges, he proposes to take over such steamers and employ them when completed for the purpose of importing necessary foodstuffs?
In the case of two of the vessels which are under construction in this country for neutral owners, provision has been made for the possibility of His Majesty's Government claiming them. This possibility has not been overlooked, but all the vessels now being built for neutral owners will either be sold to British owners or be chartered to the Government for the War and some months afterwards at a rate about half the market rate. The vessels will be employed when completed in the interests of this country.