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Shipping (Subsidies)

Volume 154: debated on Monday 22 May 1922

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any subsidies are granted by His Majesty's Government to British shipping; and what is the estimated advantage to United States shipping which will be derived from the system of subsidy proposed by President Harding in his message to Congress on 28th February?

No payments are made. by His Majesty's Government to British shipping lines, save as mentioned below, except in return for services rendered in the carriage of mails. The contracts under which these payments are made sometimes include Clauses relating to the speed of the vessels employed, the frequency of the service, and ports of call, etc., but these are only introduced in order to secure the regularity and security of the postal service. In addition to the above, the Admiralty make a small contribution to the Union Castle line in order to secure calls at Ascension for the benefit of the naval personnel, and pay £90,000 a year to the Cunard Company under a contract of 1903, which expires in 1927. By this contract the Cunard Company agreed to maintain a ship, namely, the "Mauretania," of approved speed, and to admit the right of the Admiralty to pre-emption of this and certain other vessels in case of emergency. The total annual payments under all the above headings is about £600,000, while the payments made by the United States Post Office for mail contracts only are calculated at about 6,000,000 dollars (say, £1,364,000 at present rate of exchange). According to the best available estimate, the aid direct and indirect which the United States shipowner would receive under President Harding's proposals would amount each year to rather more than 12½ per cent. of the capital value of the vessel.

Would the hon. Gentleman say if any representations are being made to the United States as to the facts of the case?

If the hon. Gentleman will give me notice of any further question, I shall be obliged.