HC Deb 29 July 1965 vol 717 cc679-80
Q1. Mr. McMaster

asked the Prime Minister what representations he has now made to the President of the United States of America with a view to persuading that country to subscribe to a more liberal shipping policy; and what progress has been made by Her Majesty's Government in securing more co-operation and a better understanding between these two countries in this field.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

None, Sir, though there are, of course, frequent exchanges of view at official level which have, I think, had a beneficial effect.

Mr. McMaster

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the strength of the American shipping lobby and the success that it has had in the field of flag discrimination and flag reservation and more recently in objecting to the purchase of warships constructed in British shipyards? Yet Her Majesty's Government seem intent on buying all their weapons and aircraft from the United States. Will the right hon. Gentleman try to secure a better balance in this trade?

The Prime Minister

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's concluding remarks, but I most certainly agree with what he said about the strength of the American shipping lobby, both now and for very many years past. But we have made quite clear, as the previous Government did, our determination on the question of flag discrimination and the other matters raised by American shipping policy.

Sir C. Osborne

On the wider issue of Anglo-American trade, will the right hon. Gentleman look at the fact that the Americans sold to us last year £250 million more than they bought from us? Could not something be done to readjust that trade to help our balance of payments problem?

The Prime Minister

I think that the figure actually was £257 million, but I am speaking from memory. I remember that in the 1959 Conservative manifesto it was claimed that the Government had a surplus of trade with America and were going to increase it. It is, therefore, £270 million out on that, and I agree with the urgency of the point as put by the hon. Member.