HC Deb 05 December 1962 vol 668 cc1305-6
3. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Transport what is the number and total tonnage of cargo ships, both oil and dry together, now lying up in British harbours and estuaries; how this compares with five years ago; and what plans he has in mind for enabling these ships to be put into commission again.

Mr. Marples

There were 101 British vessels totalling 685,000 gross tons laid up for lack of employment in British harbours and estuaries at the end of October, 1962, compared with 38 vessels of 154,000 gross tons five years ago. The surplus of tonnage is world-wide and I welcome the present series of international discussions which are taking place about it among shipowners.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these figures have been increasing annually? We have now reached the highest figures since the war. Does he not think that his Department is very complacent to allow these figures to rise and do nothing to prevent an increase in the total idle tonnage in our estuaries and ports?

Mr. Marples

No I think that many people can blame my Department for doing some things, but not for complacency. This is an international problem. The United Kingdom has 3½ per cent. to 4 per cent. of her tonnage laid up. Liberia has 6 per cent. and Panama 8 per cent. Therefore, relatively speaking we have not done too badly. However, we want to make it better if we possibly can.

Mr. P. Williams

I welcome the fact that the Ministry of Transport is taking action, but can my right hon. Friend say what the next move is in consultation with the genuine European maritime powers?

Mr. Marples

My hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary concerned with shipping had a meeting this morning with the Dutch Minister for Transport and Shipping, and I am hoping that we shall be able to co-ordinate the whole of the genuine European maritime powers in this respect.

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