§ Mr. HARTSHORN
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is aware that, owing to the fact that shipowners were making abnormal profits just before the War, they enjoy a specially high datum line for the purposes of the Excess Profits Duty; if he is aware that the shipping rings are now charging commercial freights much higher than the cost freights for which the Ministry of Shipping carries Government cargoes; and whether any estimate has been made by the Treasury of the net profits which will accordingly be made by shipowners in 1919 through the combination of high freights and the halving of the Excess Profits Levy?
As regards the first part of the question, I am informed that the profits of the industry for the years constituting the pre-war standard for Excess Profits Duty purposes were generally high. As regards the second part of the question, British shipping companies, like their foreign competitors, are charging the market rates on commercial cargo. There has been a very substantial reduction in these commercial rates since the Armistice, though they are still higher than the cost freights which apply to Government purchases. The answer to the last part of the question is in the negative.