HC Deb 19 March 1958 vol 584 cc1262-3
35. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that many British exporters of goods in bulk have found that they are, in present conditions, obliged to pay higher handling charges in British ports for their export goods and chartered ships than their German competitors in German ports; and whether, in view of the approach of European Free Trade, an investigation will be made into this matter with a view to ensuring that British exporters are not handicapped on this account.

Mr. Watkinson

Conditions vary from port to port and it is difficult to make comparisons between them, but the evidence I have does not suggest that the general position of exporters in a Free Trade Area is likely to be prejudiced by difficulties on this account.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are grounds for investigation into the conditions in British ports compared with those in German ports, for instance, that dock labour gangs in Hamburg consist of eight people compared with twelve people in this country? Is my right hon. Friend aware that German ports are more mechanised than ours and that in the Port of London there are no more fork-lift trucks than in a large-sized motor factory?

Mr. Watkinson

I do not take the view that foreigners can always do things better than we can. If my hon. Friend has any information and can let me have the details, I shall be glad to look into it.

Mr. W. Edwards

Will the right hon. Gentleman advise his hon. Friend that it is much better to deal with these commercial and industrial matters by negotiation between employers and trade unions rather than to raise them in this House on the untrue information which is supplied to the hon. Gentleman?

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