HC Deb 05 December 1956 vol 561 cc1224-6
25. Mr. Edelman

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will introduce legislation to enable him to make contracts for the construction of super-tankers for the import of oil.

26. Mr. Philips Price

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the stoppage of oil supplies from the Middle East, he will take steps to encourage the construction of large oil tankers for conveyance of oil round the Cape.

Mr. Watkinson

The construction of tankers is the responsibility of the shipping industry, and I understand that several companies are, in fact, placing orders for very large tankers. I cordially welcome this development, though, as construction requires considerable time, I am afraid it cannot assist in our immediate difficulties.

Mr. Edelman

That really is not good enough. As our oil problems are likely to last for many years, and in order to reduce our dependence upon transport through the Suez Canal, will not the Government take powers to build a nationally-owned fleet of oil tankers, and give priority to the construction of the vessels?

Mr. Watkinson

No, Sir, because that would not advance the building of the tankers, but would probably retard it.

Mr. Gough

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, whereas the shipping industry is anxious to build large tankers, there is a financial bottleneck? Will he ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to look into the matter and perhaps encourage the banks and insurance companies to provide the finance required to build large tankers?

Mr. Philips Price

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many of these tankers are likely to be built, and when they are likely to be finished?

Mr. Watkinson

What I can say is that no tanker which is not at the moment under construction can make any rapid and early contribution to meeting our present difficulties.

32. Commander Maitland

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what consultations he has had with the oil companies and port authorities in regard to proposals to facilitate the increased use of large tankers.

Mr. Watkinson

My Department has recently been in touch with the oil companies and port authorities as regards their plans in this important matter, and I shall continue to watch the position closely. I understand that schemes for reception facilities for large tankers are in hand or under examination in the Thames, Southampton Water, the Mersey and the Clyde, and also at Milford Haven.

Commander Maitland

Is "watching the situation" enough? Should not the Government give a lead in the matter, as it will take a considerable time to provide the necessary facilities?

Mr. Chetwynd

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the largest size of tanker which can be accommodated in this country at present, and what plans are being made so that we can take larger tankers?

Mr. Watkinson

To answer my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Horn-castle (Commander Maitland), the point is that we have now to consider making facilities available for 60,000-ton and larger tankers. Those arrangements are in hand. If my hon. and gallant Friend wishes to know the details, which are far too lengthy for me to give him at this moment, I shall be very happy to tell him later what arrangements we are making.

Mr. G. R. Howard

I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend is watching the situation, but would it not be true to say that there is only one port in the British Isles—Milford Haven—which is at the moment capable of taking large tankers?

Mr. Watkinson

Yes, Sir, but, as I have just said, the other ports which I have mentioned are taking steps to ensure that they can cope with them, too.