HC Deb 08 February 1956 vol 548 cc1643-4
1. Mr. Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what consideration Her Majesty's Government have given to the convention on the subject of shipowners' liability which was drafted by the International Maritime Committee at its meeting in September, 1955; and what action Her Majesty's Government propose to take.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Profumo)

The draft convention is being studied with the numerous interests concerned. I cannot state what action Her Majesty's Government may take, until these studies and subsequent inter-Governmental discussions are completed.

Mr. Knox Cunningham

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that there is grave injustice at present owing to the low limit of liability, and will he realise that time is of the essence? Will he also bear in mind that a somewhat similar convention of 1924 has not been implemented?

Mr. Profumo

I recognise that there is a clear case for review, but we must wait to take any action according to the Answer which I have already given to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Younger

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I, and I have no doubt other hon. Members, have been pressing this matter for a long time? Is the hon. Gentleman not also aware that these international negotiations have been dragging on, to my knowledge, certainly for several years, in addition to the earlier ones which were reported in 1924? There are ships being lost at sea every month, I am sorry to say, and certainly every year from my constituency, and the amount of compensation that dependants can get is certainly not more than about a quarter of what everybody thinks they should get. This really is a very urgent matter.

Mr. Profumo

I recognise the urgency of this matter, but it would be most unwise to prejudice our interests and our negotiating freedom at the conference which will have to take place, by announcing in advance our position or making it publicly known before the conference takes place.

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