asked the Financial Secretary to the Treasury if he is aware that a well-known firm of Belgian shipowners is desirous of placing an order for the building of four ships at Port Glasgow, and for this purpose has sought assistance under the Trade Facilities Act, offering at the same time satisfactory and undoubted security; that the Trade Facilities Advisory Committee has refused to sanction such assistance for the reason that there are in the meantime ships lying idle; and whether, since other orders of a, similar character have already been lost to this country and placed abroad under the same conditions, he will take steps to ensure that this order and similar orders are not lost to British shipbuilders in the interest of shipowners?
I am informed that the Trade Facilities Act Advisory Committee after very full consideration are not prepared to recommend a guarantee in the case to which I understand the question refers. I fear I could not accept the statement in the last part of the question; and I could not undertake to interfere in the exercise by the Committee of the discretion which Parliament intended them to have.
There is a large discretion left to the Advisory Committee, and as regards this particular case the real reply is that the Shipping Conference of which the applicants were themselves members could not recommend the guarantee.
Does the hon. Gentleman not know that the conference referred to was a conference of shipowners who are concerned in reducing the number of ships built, and are shipbuilders to be kept out of employment in order to protect the profits of shipowners?
Sir F. HALL:
Is it not a question of the security of a mortgage on a vessel under the Belgian flag in this country and as to whether it is advisable that the Trade Facilities Act should be applied in such cases.
It would be impossible in reply to supplementary questions to deal with all these guarantees, but as regards shipping guarantees, all sense of unfairness must be removed when I remind the House that, out of £13,000,000 guaranteed for shipping, nearly £7,000,000 have been guaranteed to Glasgow and the West of Scotland.