HC Deb 30 April 1958 vol 587 cc377-8
49. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will state the percentage of oil imported into this country which was carried in ships flying the British flag in each of the past four years.

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

It is estimated that in the years 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957, 41 per cent., 40 per cent., 38 per cent. and 36 per cent. respectively of the oil imported into this country was carried in ships flying the British flag, but that the actual quantity of oil imported in such ships remained about the same.

Mr. Peyton

May I ask my hon. Friend if he is satisfied that sufficient is being done to maintain a modernised and fast fleet of tankers to carry the oil on which our economy so greatly depends? Would he accept that it is a basic strategic and commercial interest of this country that our proportion of the world's tonnage should not be constantly allowed to dwindle over the years?

Mr. Neave

I agree that the position requires very careful watching. The total British tanker tonnage has increased during the four years covered by my hon. Friend's question by about 21 per cent. Many British tankers, of course, are employed on voyages which do not bring them to the United Kingdom. The figures in my Answer relate to oil imports, which have increased from 35 million tons to 39 million tons during the years relating to my hon. Friend's Question.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my hon. Friend if he will bear in mind that complementary with this problem is the question of dry docks? May I have an assurance that the Government are not going to mess about with dry docks and that we shall have appropriate finance to ensure that we have modern dry docks to make us fully competitive in the markets of the world and able to maintain our traditional sea routes?

Mr. Neave

Dry docks are very important, but they are not my responsibility.

Dame Irene Ward

A bad reply.

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