HC Deb 17 December 1979 vol 976 cc4-5
3. Mr. Waldegrave

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what sort of defensive measures against the effects of subsidized freight rates offered by merchant fleets within the Soviet bloc are being considered.

Mr. Tebbit

We have power to control the number of calls made at United Kingdom ports by such ships, and the cargoes that they carry. We can also control rates and impose charges. The position is kept under regular review. But unilateral United Kingdom action would not be fully effective and we would prefer to act in concert with other countries, notably within the EEC.

Mr. Waldegrave

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he give an assurance that in trade deals with the Soviet Union, which involve our supplying the Russians with the technology that they badly need, he will consider trading off gains that the Russians need for international gains on the shipping front?

Mr. Tebbit

I take note of my hon. Friend's remarks. On the whole, we have quite good relationships with the Soviet Union on shipping matters, especially technical matters. We are constantly trying to find ways of living with the Russians in relation to the pricing of freighting on both their ships and ours.

Mr. Prescott

Does the Minister accept that there is some inconsistency in the attitude towards alleged Russian unfair competition and the attitude towards American companies which are charged more by British shipping companies to bring their products to Britain and therefore legislation is passed to protect British companies?

Mr. Tebbit

There is no inconsistency. The two matters are not related in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. It is right that we should have legislation to protect the legitimate rights of British companies and British residents to act within the law in the United Kingdom without their being prosecuted for it in the United States. It is right that we should also protect our shipping industry against non-commercial organisations that may dump capacity on the market.

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