HC Deb 30 June 1954 vol 529 cc1323-4
1. Mr. Willey

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will give a list of the particular restrictions imposed on the supply of large merchant vessels to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Poland.

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas)

The shipping controls form part of the international lists and, on the subject of publication, I can add nothing to what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Board of Trade, said in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) on 1st June.

Mr. Willey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable interest in this question, and that the wider the knowledge is spread the better it will be as far as our own shipbuilding industry is concerned?

Mr. Thomas

I certainly realise how widespread is the interest in this question, but the present moment, when the lists are under review, would not be a good time to publish them.

Mr. Shinwell

How long does the right hon. Gentleman propose to continue these restrictions on the supply of British merchant vessels to the Soviet Union when other countries associated with us in many other respects are supplying these vessels?

Mr. Thomas

That is really a question for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that all Departments of the Government interested in shipbuilding and shipping are most anxious to reach a decision as quickly as possible. We are doing everything we can to shorten the time.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the First Lord accurate in saying that it is the responsibility of the Board of Trade? I always understood that the Admiralty advised the Board of Trade.

Mr. Thomas

If the right hon. Gentleman looks back on Questions and answers in the House, he will find that the President of the Board of Trade is the Minister principally authorised to make statements.

Mr. P. Williams

Is it not a fact that shipbuilders already know the restrictions which exists?

Mr. Hoy

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when I attempted to put down a Question to the President of the Board of Trade I was told that it was a matter for the Admiralty? Is he now in a position to state whether it is possible for British shipbuilders to accept orders for vessels similar to that which has been accepted by Holland in agreement with Russia in a business exchange?

Mr. Thomas

If the Question was transferred to the Admiralty, it was one specifically for the Admiralty to deal with rather than concerning the general question of East-West trade, for which the Board of Trade is responsible. Any requests from the shipbuilding industry to build ships such as that which the hon. Member says is being built by Holland will certainly be considered by the authorities, although I cannot promise what the answer will be.

Mr. Shinwell

I am sorry to pursue this, but it is most important from the standpoint of British shipping interests. Can the First Lord say whether very soon we shall have the policy of the Government firmly stated?

Mr. Thomas

I think it will be very soon. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are at present in consultation with other nations—we do not stand alone on this—but, as far as this country is concerned, the sooner the Government can make a statement the happier we will be.

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