§ MR. JAMES O'KELLY (Roscommon, N.)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, when he is considering any proposed scheme for the insurance of British ships and cargoes against war risks in time of war, he will consider the advisability of taxing British shipping for its own protection, and not throw the cost of insuring a special industry on the taxes of the general population?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I think it would be premature to answer questions on this subject until the Government have come to some provisional conclusion, at all events as to the practicability of any scheme or as to the nature of the scheme that should be adopted; but I may point out that, if insurances of the kind referred to by the hon. Member were set on foot, it would not be in the interests of the shipowning community, but in those of the British consumers as a whole. It would be solely in the interests of the latter that public funds would be used.
§ MR. O'KELLY
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such protection would not be at all in the interests of Ireland?
§ MR. WILLIAM ALLAN (Gateshead)
asked whether any Government had ever insured vessels and cargoes in war time, and whether such insurances were not effected by private underwriting firms?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I am not aware that any scheme of national insurance has ever been adopted before. But I would remind the House that perhaps I have gone almost too far in answering hypothetical questions on a very incomplete subject of study. ["Hear, hear !"]