HC Deb 22 March 1961 vol 637 cc368-9
21. Mr. C. Osborne

asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware that for the first time in history British ships carried less than half Britain's overseas trade amounting to 49 per cent. for 1960 against 51 per cent. for 1959, 54 per cent. for 1956 and 57 per cent. for 1938; what is the reason for this loss of trade; what further help he proposes to give to British shipping; what discussions he has had with the shipping interests on this subject; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Marples

The percentages quoted apply only to imports: the corresponding figures for exports are considerably higher. All these matters are now being discussed with the General Council of British Shipping in connection with its recent recommendations.

Mr. Osborne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Council of Shipping feels that a good deal of its troubles arise from certain aspects of the American interests where there is discrimination against our own shipping? Would he pass on to the Prime Minister the idea that he might raise this in Washington with President Kennedy when he goes there, in order to see how far it is true that American interests are unreasonably undercutting our British shipping interests?

Mr. Marples

I have seen the president of the Council of Shipping on this very point. He is now in Washington. Quite a number of representations are being made to the Americans at the moment.

Sir L. Ropner

Why is not my right hon. Friend in America instead of asking the Council of Shipping to deal with matters which are the concern of the Government and over which the shipping industry in this country has no control? Is it not true that the Minister has so much on his plate at the moment that he simply has not time to deal seriously with shipping problems?

Mr. Marples

The answer to the last part of that supplementary question is "No, Sir". In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, I am not in America because I am here answering Questions in the House of Commons, which is normally my duty. I did not ask the Council of Shipping to go to America. Its representatives went there and the Government gave them all facilities to see our ambassador and to make all proper representations which they themselves thought fit. Both my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and myself have made representations in person in Washington.