HL Deb 16 May 1974 vol 351 cc1106-8

3.21 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action was taken by the British representative at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at Geneva on the proposal that conference arrangements between shipowners and shippers should be superseded by international control.


My Lords, the Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences prepared at the recent United Nations Conference contains a number of provisions which would, in our view, hamper seaborne trade and impair the efficient operation of worldwide shipping services. For this reason Her Majesty's Government, after full consultation with shipowners and shippers, voted against the Convention, as did Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America. We had participated fully in the prolonged efforts to draft a universally acceptable set of rules to govern relationships between shipowners themselves and between them and their customers. It was therefore a matter of regret that this Convention failed to achieve this aim.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, far from being annoyed with the rejection of the proposition made at this Conference, British shipping is in fact very much satisfied? These conference arrangements, which have been in operation for many years between shipowners and shippers, have worked satisfactorily and make a valuable contribution to our surplus in the balance of payments, when we have a surplus. Therefore it must be clearly understood that the British shipping industry will seek to reject, with whatever power and influence it possesses, anything in the nature of international control, or of European control, which disturbs the friendly relationship between shipowners and shippers.


My Lords, I do not think there is anything inconsistent with what I have said and the remarks of my noble friend Lord Shinwell. I would only remind him that the conferences have been the subject of an investigation by the Rochdale Committee and that most of the conferences now embody the recommendations of that Committee.


My Lords, my noble friend mentioned that Switzerland had voted on this question. Are we to understand from that fact that Switzerland is now a great marine nation?


No, my Lords. Switzerland does have some vessels; but it is important to consider that there are customers as well as shipowners and that Switzerland, of course, had a very interesting and objective view at that Convention, one with which, as it happened, we agreed.