13 December 2011

Hitting Back with No. 534

On this day in 1933:

Before she was christened "Queen Mary"


Measure Urged as Helping Industry and Defence in War



White Star-Cunard Amalgamation Indicated by Neville Chamberlain

(Associated Press Cable)

London, December 13.--Declaring that Great Britain should "hit back and hit hard at aggressive countries fighting" her shipping, Walter Runciman at Ville Marie despite the Trade, said tonight a subsidy for tramp ships was being considered by the Government.

Not only would it aid industry, he said in the House of Commons, but it would be a defence measure in the event of war.

Mr. Runciman's statement followed that today of Neville Chamberlain, Chancellor of the Exchequer, that an early merger of the great Cunard and White Star North Atlantic shipping lines is indicated.

When the merger is completed, Mr. Chamberlain asserted, he will present a programme for facillitating completion of the huge Cunard liner 534, which would be the largest ship afloat.

Work on the 534 was suspended more than a year ago but if Government assistance is received it is expected to be operated jointly by the Cunard and White Star companies.

The 534 would be a super-liner, costing approximately $25,000,000 and with a tonnage of 78,000 tons. Mr. Chamberlain said discussion of whether a sister ship to it would be constructed should be deferred.

Mr. Runciman said the Government also is "taking into account disabilities under which British lines labored," referring to the United States' ban on foreign coastwise shipping.

It appears to be, he continued, "a very unjust thing that the United States should regard a trip from New York to Honolulu as coastwise traffic. But if we were to make anything like a rejoinder to that we must bear in mind we have a large interest in foreign trade and would expose a very broad track for attack."

VOTED DOWN 221-34.

An opposition proposal for public ownership of shipping and ship-building was voted down by the House, 221-43.

Mr. Runciman said "the experience of the United States and Australia was sufficient to dispose of this idea to hand the merchant navy over to the Government." He deplored what he described as the failure of other big countries to support Britain's anti-subsidy policy.

Sir Robert Horne had previously declared the United States Government lost nearly $400,000,000 in an attempt to run its shipping and that Australia, Canada and France incurred similar losses.

Shipping circles have predicted that not only would the Government enable completion of number 534 (the only name the vessel has, since it is uncompleted) but would also construct a sister ship.

Negotiations between the Cunard and White Star Lines have been long drawn out. Meanwhile, the steel hulk of the 534 lay on the Clydebank stocks. About $9,600,000 has already been spent on the vessel. Contracts for it were let in December, 1930.

Operation of the boat is understood to be one of the principal objects of the Cunard-White Star amalgamation. Another is elimination of competition, one of the Government's conditions for giving assistance.

France's potential rival to the 534, the luxury liner Normandie, of 60,000 gross tons with a 70,000-ton displacement, will likely be commissioned early next year. It was launched last fall. It was built at a cost of approximately $30,000,000.

(source: The Montreal Gazette)

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