HC Deb 12 July 1962 vol 662 cc1510-1
Q1. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Prime Minister if he will request the Secretaries of State for War and Commonwealth Relations, and the Ministers of Transport, Education and Health, to prepare a scheme for continuing the Government contract far the troopships "Oxford-shire" and "Nevasa" until 1971 in order to avoid the payment of several million pounds as compensation for cancelling the contract, and to enable the vessels to be used for purposes such as taking pneumoconiotic and silicotic coal miners to southern waters as part of treatment under the National Health Service, taking potential young athletes to the Tokyo Olympic Games or taking 17–18-year-olds to Commonwealth countries as part of their education; and if he will make an estimate of the cost of such Government-sponsored schemes compared with the cost of paying the compensation.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Discussions about compensation for breaking the charter of these ships are not yet concluded, but any schemes of the kind suggested by the hon. Member are likely to cost so much more than the probable compensation as to make them unacceptable as a charge on public funds.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that by brushing aside such schemes he is throwing away £9 million from the public purse fruitlessly?

The Prime Minister

I think that we had better go on and see how the negotiations continue.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman advise his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to look into this matter? Is he aware that if ship-owners were asked to undertake the management of these vessels the company which is not making a profit, and therefore not receiving the investment allowance of 40 per cent., would make a profit from the management of the vessels and get the 40 per cent, and so he would be helping the shipping industry as well as making a very valuable contribution?

The Prime Minister

I shall bear all that in mind.

Mr. Rankin

Would not the right hon. Gentleman recognise the importance of the school-ship in promoting or helping to promote world peace, particularly by bringing into contact with one another children and young people of all ages and climes during the formative period of their lives? Does not he realise that by following such a policy he might save far more money than he is spending today in wasteful ways?

The Prime Minister

All these considerations will be borne in mind.

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