HC Deb 01 February 1961 vol 633 cc960-2
54. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Minister of Transport on what date he intends to announce to the House his proposals for future shipping policy, following his consideration of the report from the General Council of British Shipping.

Mr. Marples

I cannot yet say when the Government will have completed its consideration and discussion of the General Council's Report. But, as I said in answer to a supplementary question earlier, I am meeting the General Council a week today.

Dame Irene Ward

Could my right hon. Friend give an assurance here and now that the problems which the General Council of British Shipping raised will not be lost in all the attention that is given by him, however essential it may be, to roads and railways?

Mr. Marples

I think that it has taken the General Council eighteen months to produce a Report and only a few days for me to arrange to meet the Council. I do not think that it is reasonable, therefore, to say that there has been any undue delay.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that for much longer than eighteen months Questions have been asked from both sides of the House about the condition of British shipping and that he was made aware of the difficulty long ago? Is the right hon. Gentleman seized of the importance of British shipping in the national economy, and is he aware that, unless he does something subsequent to considering the Report, we shall have to put a Motion on the Order Paper to ask that shipping be transferred from him to some other more competent Minister?

Mr. Marples

I am certain that the House will agree with me that the Council knows its own business better than anyone else. It has taken eighteen months to prepare its Report. I have agreed to meet the Council straight away and I think that that is not unbusinesslike by any standards,

Mr. J. Howard

Will my right hon. Friend pay particular attention to that part of the Report dealing with coastal shipping, about which immediate action is required?

Mr. Marples

The whole Report will be studied, including that part of it which deals with coastal shipping.

Mr. Mellish

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us feel that since he came to power he has taken upon himself many extra powers to deal with other problems, both of road and rail, and we sincerely believe that it is not possible for one Minister, in addition to dealing with roads and railways, to take over these other problems of shipping? I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is nothing personal in this.

Mr. Marples

I cannot say anything more except that I am seeing the Council as quickly as possible and I do not think that anybody could see it in a shorter time than that within which have arranged to see it.

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