§ 8. Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the effect which the increase in 1026 airborne traffic has on British seaborne trade; and, in view of the number of British ships which are now unemployed or under-employed, what steps he is taking to maintain Great Britain's maritime trade.
§ Mr. Marples
In 1958 cargoes carried to and from the United Kingdom by air amounted to less than 1 per cent. by weight of the total United Kingdom trade. This has had little or no effect on the employment of British cargo ships. The main impact of air competition has been on passenger traffic but no British passenger ships are laid up for lack of employment.
Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the problems facing the shipping industry. They will continue to help in any way they can.
§ Mr. Hughes
Without wishing to interfere with Britain's air activities, may I ask whether the Minister realises that there is a great lack of co-ordination between Britain's various transport systems? Will he take into consultation the experts in all three forms of transport with a view to preventing the damage which is being done to the shipping industry and to shipbuilding and ship repairing?
§ Mr. Marples
I will take notice of what the three experts in the three different Departments say, but unfortunately they give three different kinds of advice. I do not think that we can stop further development of air passenger traffic. It is inevitable because of the shortness of the time required. If I were to go to America I should prefer personally to go by ship. Nothing would please me more. If one goes by air one is drinking sherry at breakfast and taking tea at dinner. It is a question of time, and for most people the time is not available.
§ 9. Mr. Hector Hughes
asked the Minister of Transport the number of British ships in British ports which are unemployed or under-employed to the latest convenient date, indicating the respective ports and tonnage; how these numbers compare with the numbers for each of the last ten years; and what steps he is taking to resolve the difficulties which prevent the full employment of these ships.
§ Mr. Hay
Altogether, 139 British ships totalling 917,000 gross tons were laid up for lack of employment in United Kingdom waters on 30th September, 1959. I 1027 will, with permission, circulate a note in the OFFICIAL REPORT* showing the numbers and tonnage of ships laid up in each port or anchorage and the total numbers and tonnage of ships laid up for each of the past ten years. I regret that I can give no estimate of the number of British ships which are under-employed. We will continue our efforts to help in any way we can to overcome the difficulties to which the hon. and learned Member refers.
§ Mr. Hughes
Is it not a shocking commentary on Britain's history in shipbuilding and ship repairing that so many British ships and seamen should be unemployed? Will he look into the matter again with a view to allowing Britain to recapture her historic supremacy in this industry?
§ Mr. Hay
I think that the whole House appreciates that this is not a consequence of deliberate Government action, desire or policy. This is the reflection of a world-wide situation. We will do all in our power to encourage the expansion of world trade, on which the prosperity of British shipping depends, and also to continue to maintain a healthy financial position at home. We will do all we can to help in any way we can.