HC Deb 22 March 1961 vol 637 c359
8. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he has taken during the last twelve months to counter the effects on British shipping of competition from flags of convenience fleets; and what has been the result of those steps.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

This is largely a matter of taxation. The United Kingdom shipping industry has enjoyed a 40 per cent. investment allowance since 1957 and under present conditions flags of convenience have temporarily lost much of their competitive tax-free advantage.

Mr. Hughes

As a practical matter, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the wisdom and experience of the National Union of Seamen would be a guiding lighthouse for him? Will he say how often he has discussed this problem with that union?

Mr. Marples

I personally have not discussed this with the N.U.S., but I know that it is interested. The General Council Survey of British Shipping—that is, the industry itself—said that under present conditions tax-free advantages of flags of convenience have temporarily lost their significance.

Sir L. Ropner

Does not my right hon. Friend think that conditions of freight markets may improve some day, and that, if they do, the advantages of tax-free ships will return in force?

Mr. Marples

At the present moment, quite a few allowances have not been absorbed by profits, so tax has not been paid.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, unless profits accrue as the result of operations of shipping companies, the question of allowances does not arise?

Mr. Marples

I agree, but broadly speaking the industry is doing quite well with this 40 per cent. investment allowance, which is twice what any other industry gets. The Government are considering important matters like the problems of tramp steamers.

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