HC Deb 06 May 1968 vol 764 cc13-4
9. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Technology what plans he has for the setting up of a national agency to deal with the exploitation of the oceans; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Fowler

None, Sir. I do not think that the setting up of a national agency would be appropriate or useful to deal with this subject. Studies of the best way of handling marine science and technology are now in hand.

Mr. Costain

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that other nations have done this? Does he not realise that it was because of his own Government's failure with the economy that we could not advance in the space race? Had we not better develop a programme of action on this matter?

Mr. Fowler

Setting up a national agency would involve substantial rearrangement of Ministerial responsibilities without any compensating advantages. When the hon. Gentleman says that other nations have done it, I take it that he refers to the Committee in the United States under the chairmanship of the Vice-President, but the degree of unity and cohesion given by that body is probably more apparent than real, since it has no overall financial or executive control of any part of the U.S. national ocean research progremme.

Mr. Hooley

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great international interest in the problem of exploiting the resources of the ocean? Would he bear this in mind in any action which the Ministry takes?

Mr. Fowler


Mr. David Price

Would the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that there is great interest in the House, and certainly outside, in whether we are putting enough effort into studying the ocean and whether the time is not approaching when the Government should not at least produce a White Paper on their intentions?

Mr. Fowler

We shall certainly bear that in mind. We are aware of the interest, but this is, of course, rather a different matter from the question of how one runs a national programme.