HC Deb 06 November 1968 vol 772 cc888-9
20. Mr. Ridley

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will set up a study of the consequences for the balance of payments of the import of ships from abroad as a result of investment grants and free depreciation.

Mr. Dell

The purpose of these incentives is to encourage investment in new ships by British owners. The British shipping industry makes a valuable contribution to the balance of payments.

Mr. Ridley

If the Japanese, for instance, charge a 15 per cent. tariff on new ships, why should we subsidise them to the extent of 25 per cent.? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this has already cost the taxpayers £66 million? Will he not at least set up an impartial inquiry into this drain on taxpayers' money across the exchanges for no apparent benefit?

Mr. Dell

I think the hon. Gentleman will find that under the Kennedy Round the tariff to which he has referred has been reduced and will be reduced further. As to an inquiry, we are, of course, aware of, and study, the consequences for the balance of payments of our various actions in this field. I think the hon. Gentleman will find that a British-owned ship, even if bought abroad, if given a reasonable rate of profitability, is likely to make a positive contribution to our balance of payments, which, reading the Question, seems to be what the hon. Gentleman is interested in.

Mr. Small

Will my hon. Friend consider having a review of subsidising shipping in this country in respect of ships that are built abroad, which is actively under consideration by many people who are interested in shipping matters?

Mr. Dell

As my hon. Friend knows, we are in frequent negotiation with our competitors abroad on the subject of subsidies for shipbuilding. We hope to eliminate subsidies for shipbuilding. We do not regard investment grants for shipping—which are involved in this case—as constituting a subsidy. We regard them as an incentive to the British shipping industry, which makes a valuable contribution to our balance of payments.

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