HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc508-9
27. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the President of the Board of Trade whom he has appointed to undertake the inquiry into shipping; what are their terms of reference; and when they are to report.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Douglas Jay)

No appointment has yet been made and an announcement of the terms of reference should not precede this. I cannot say, at this stage, how long the inquiry is likely to last.

Mr. Digby

If the right hon. Gentleman does not know whom he is going to appoint, or what they are to consider, was not the announcement a little premature?

Mr. Jay

I think that the hon. Member has forgotten that Lord Pearson's court of inquiry is now engaged on a rather narrower inquiry. On reflection, the hon. Member may agree that it is more sensible to finish with the narrow inquiry before we start the wide one.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what the Government are trying to find out about shipping? Is he aware that several hon. Members who are intensely interested in the subject could tell the Government all about it without duplicating any other inquiries? What is the use of appointing committees when hon. Members are at the disposal of the Government?

Mr. Jay

I am always glad to listen to my right hon. Friend, especially on this subject, but there was a considerable demand for an inquiry—not least from those employed in the industry.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Are we to understand from my right hon. Friend's statement that there will be no delay with the narrower inquiry, especially in relation to the amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act, which is a most important matter?

Mr. Jay

Certainly we shall proceed with this as quickly as possible.

Dame Irene Ward

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he would be able to obtain quite a lot of information if he would accede to the pledge given a long time age by Her Majesty's Government that we could have a debate on all these matters? The pledge has been broken. Ii would be very much better if we could have a debate, because he would then hear a great deal of useful information, which would help those whom we are expecting to help the industry.

Mr. Jay

I agree. I shall be glad to have a debate as soon as it can be arranged through the usual channels.

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