HC Deb 08 May 1963 vol 677 cc423-4
26. Mr. Bence

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he is taking to promote the expansion of demand for shipping, in view of the number of empty shipbuilding berths on the Clyde.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

Expansion of shipping depends more than anything else on expansion of world trade, and the Government are constantly trying to promote this.

Mr. Bence

Having regard to the recent fiscal inducements given to the development districts to encourage industry to expand there, will the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider giving an inducement to the British Mercantile Marine to enable it to take advantage of the present shortage of work in the shipyards and to encourage the placing of orders with British shipbuilders?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

That is one of the things which we are considering, but I must repeat that the only long-term remedy for the present state of affairs is to secure a revival in world trade and a reduction of the present surplus of ships.

Mr. Fernyhough

Apart from the state of world trade, is not British shipping severely affected by flag discrimination? What steps are the Government taking to end this, the biggest stumbling-block facing the British shipping industry today?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

This is a little wide of the original Question. I do not accept that it is the biggest stumbling-block, although it is an important stumbling-block. As regards the steps being taken, I remind the hon. Gentleman of the agreed resolution which was published after a meeting on 15th March with the nine other principal maritime Powers in Europe. We have great hopes of reaching international agreement.

Sir L. Ropner

Is the Minister of Transport considering any means by which British shipping could be put on a level of parity with the fleets of other nations, nearly all of which receive a subsidy, either direct or indirect, or are subject to flag discrimination, trade reservation, and so on?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

As regards flag discrimination and similar restrictions imposed by other Governments, we do our best both by diplomatic representation and, more recently, as I have said, by efforts to reach international agreement to control them. I can only say that we should be very reluctant to embark upon a shipping subsidy.

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