HC Deb 29 March 1960 vol 620 cc1137-9
42. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the importance of the shipping industry, he will detach the subject of shipping from the Ministry of Transport and recreate the Ministry of Shipping or associate shipping with the Ministry of Aviation.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

The distribution of functions within the Government depends upon a number of circumstances, which vary from time to time. Last October my right hon. Friend made certain new dispositions in the field of transport. These have not been in existence very long and we should, I think, see how things work out before considering any further changes.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not obvious to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that the Minister of Transport has undertaken far too many responsibilities? He is responsible for roads and rail and now shipbuilding, which was transferred from the Admiralty, and in point of fact treats shipping—a very important subject of great national interest—in a casual fashion. Would not it be desirable, in view of the Minister's lack of knowledge about shipping, to detach this very important subject from his Ministry?

Mr. Butler

I think that my right hon. Friend would be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his suggestion, in which I think there is a certain amount of sense; but at the same time we have only just made a change and I am satisfied, as is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, by the activities of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in relation to the shipping industry which I think have full approval. I think we had better let things develop as they are at the moment.

Sir W. Wakefield

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, because of the development of the hovercraft, it is desirable that the responsibilities of the Minister of Transport regarding shipping and the responsibilities of the Minister of Aviation should be associated? Already one Department has claimed the hovercraft as a ship and another Department suggests that it is an aircraft. Therefore, is not it desirable that this matter be looked at? Perhaps a happy solution would be to associate shipping and aviation?

Mr. Butler

That is a further suggestion, but I think we had better leave things as they are at the moment, including the definition of Whitehall jargon.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the view I expressed, and which is implied in my Question, represents the considered opinion of the vast majority of ship owners in this country who are dissatisfied—they have expressed their dissatisfaction in private, if not in public—with the position as it is at present and wish to have shipping considered as a special subject?

Mr. Butler

I thought that the right hon. Gentleman got quite a kindly Answer—I only asked him to be patient—and that is more than he usually gets. Therefore, I hope he will be patient in this matter.