§ 14. Mr. Wingfield Digby
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how Her Majesty's Government's cutback of 10 per cent. on oil supplies will affect the bunkering of British shipping and its invisible earnings.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine
I refer my hon. Friend to the statement which I made on Friday. Our shipping industry is already taking steps, through reductions in 18 ship speeds and other measures, to cut substantially its consumption of oil fuel. It will not be possible to isolate the effects of the reductions in oil supplies on the industry's invisible earnings because of the other factors involved.
§ Mr. Wingfield Digby
In view of the importance of invisible earnings and the fact that ships serving the United Kingdom need to bunker world-wide, will my hon. Friend say what steps he is taking to encourage other countries to follow the example of this country and give priority to bunkers?
§ Mr. Heseltine
I have not thought it necessary to take such positive steps, because no representations have been made to me by the shipping industry that it is necessary. If any evidence of difficulties were brought to my attention I should see what could be done in the circumstances.
§ Mr. Booth
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the range of activities of merchant and naval ships is so wide that in a period of oil tanker shortage there is a place for determining priorities? Will the Minister give an undertaking that this matter is being examined and that priority will be given to tankers moving oil to this country and ships moving food and other essential supplies?
§ Mr. Heseltine
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in the statement which I made on Friday I have given priority status to ships involved in trade to and from the United Kingdom.