HC Deb 14 June 1961 vol 642 cc419-21
27. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Transport what consultations he has had with the Canadian Minister of Transport about the modification of the Commonwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement by which the Great Lakes—St. Lawrence River system is to be treated as Canadian inland waters; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

A proposal to reserve domestic Canadian trade in the Great Lakes and part of the St. Lawrence to Canadian registered vessels was announced by the Canadian Minister of Transport on 12th May, 1961. The proposal would entail a variation of the Commonwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement. A formal proposal to that effect has just been received from the Canadian Government and is being examined. In the meantime, officials of the United Kingdom have discussed the matter with Canadian officials in London and in Ottawa.

Mr. Rankin

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that a bloc of this nature in the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes would do great damage to this country because of our dependence on exports? Does he propose to make any representations to the Canadian Minister of Transport, in view of the fact that, apart from any proposed agreement, it is very difficult indeed for Britain to carry on any trade at the moment in that part of the Western world?

Mr. Marples

The formal proposal was received only on 9th June, five days ago. Immediately, I got in touch with the General Council of British Shipping to assess the situation and see what the financial loss and the implications or repercussions for this country may be. I must await the outcome of that inquiry.

Mr. J. Howard

In view of this piece of discrimination which has just been disclosed, will my right hon. Friend say whether we impose similar restrictions on Canadian ships in British waters?

Mr. Marples

No, Sir, we do not. In this country, our coasting trade is open freely to ships of all flags, which is not so in this recent proposal from Canada.

Mr. Mellish

Will the Minister assure the House, since this is a matter of great importance, that we shall have a chance of discussing it further? Since he speaks about new plans the implications of which he is examining, will he let us know exactly what they are and ensure that the House has an opportunity of discussing them before anything is finalised?

Mr. Marples

The question of time for discussion in the House is not for me but for the Leader of the House. The formal proposals were received only five days ago, so I do not think that the House can expect me to pronounce on them now.

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