HC Deb 18 November 1974 vol 881 cc869-70
5. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether he is satisfied that adequate shipping space is available for British exports to the Southern Hemisphere; and whether he will make a statement.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Eric Deakins)

I understand that, apart from some delays in containerised cargo for New Zealand, there should be adequate space from now on. If the hon. Member is aware of any other continuing difficulties, my Department will be happy to look into them and bring them to the attention of the appropriate shipping interests.

Mr. Beith

Has not the hon. Gentleman been told that I wrote to his hon. Friend in May about the difficulties experienced by Hardy's of Alnwick, fishing tackle manufacturers, wishing to export increasingly to Australia and New Zealand? Does he not realise that these difficulties are continuing though his hon. Friend promised that they would be investigated?

Mr. Deakins

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's letter. The point is that the situation has much improved since early this year. The main difficulty is that congestion at New Zealand ports is preventing containers from being returned to the United Kingdom. I am not aware of any further difficulties in any other parts of the southern hemisphere.

Mr. Goodhew

Even if there is capacity for shipping these exports, what will the Government do to ensure that there is free passage for this shipping? Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the activities of the Russian fleet in the Indian Ocean? In view of the support of Labour Members for the Government's attitude to the Simonstown Agreement, may I ask the Minister whether he is sure that this space can be used in future?

Mr. Deakins

I am not aware of any interference with the free passage of British ships on the high seas. There is a later Question about the Simonstown Agreement.