HC Deb 30 March 1960 vol 620 cc1312-4
12. Mr. J. Howard

asked the Minister of Transport what representations have been made to the Japanese Government following that Government's decision to revive the system of subsidising the servicing of loans for shipbuilding, in view of the effect upon shipbuilding in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Marples

The subsidy to which my hon. Friend refers is a measure of financial assistance to Japanese shipowners and does not directly affect the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry. The Japanese Government are aware, however, that we regret any measures designed to stimulate the expansion of Japanese shipping artificially when the world already has too much tonnage.

Mr. Howard

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his reply, but will he assure the House that he will use this and every other occasion to protest against any form of subsidy and discrimination in the shipping industry, and, in particular, to focus attention on the United States of America, which is the principal offender?

Mr. Marples

Certainly, Sir, but the Question is about Japan; and we are sorry that Japan, a very great maritime nation, finds it necessary to adopt such measures.

Mr. Mellish

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that all of us on this side of the House are very much concerned with the present plight of the shipbuilding industry in our own country. As a matter of fact, many of us still believe that his Ministry is not capable of dealing with this and many other activities for which it is responsible. Can we have the assurance that the right hon. Gentleman will direct all his efforts to getting as much work as possible, not only for the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain but also in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Marples

We have already done that, and if the hon. Gentleman has any construc:ive suggestion which he thinks we should adopt, I should be grateful to hear from him.

Mr. P. Williams

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House realises that pink zones may be important, but that the Red Duster is far more important, and that we cannot for ever tolerate in this House the practices adopted toy our alleged allies and ex-enemies and by our ex-allies and present allies, both Japanese and American, and pursued to defend their now uneconomic industry; and that anything that can be done to raise this matter, particularly with the American Government, will be welcomed in this House?

Mr. Marples

I quite agree with my hon. Friend, but everybody in this House keeps pointing out the difficulty and nobody points out the remedy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I myself have protested to the United States about the way it discriminates, and I have now put on record what I think about the subsidy imposed by Japan. At the same time, what can one do to bring pressure to bear upon another sovereign country?

Mr. Rankin

Whilst it is all very well to regret these happenings, does the right hon. Gentleman not realise, in view of the fact that world capacity to build ships is now far in excess of world demand, that it is time we were doing something, or trying to do something, to reach some form of international agreement that would regulate the building of ships? Will he, as I have asked him before, try to take the first step in seeking to get an international conference on this matter?

Mr. Marples

I took the step when in Washington of seeing the State Department of the United States as well as the Federal Maritime Board. I made my protest and the position of this country perfectly clear. The real difficulty is that this country is in a vulnerable position as regards shipping and we have very few cards to play. I wish we had more.

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