§ Mr. Norris
Shipowners are free to choose the flag under which their ships operate and will be influenced in their choice by a number of factors. Internationally, there has been a trend over the last 25 years for greater use of open registers. We are aiming to improve the competitive position of British shipping and to make the use of the Red Ensign more attractive through a range of positive measures outlined to the House by the then Secretary of State on 21 April 1994,Official Report, columns 1077–78. However, while flag states may legitimately seek to encourage ships onto their registers, we do not 514W believe that it is acceptable for shipowners to register ships with flag states which do not have the capability of supervising the safety of their ships, or which do not do so effectively.
The Government are determined to take a strong line against substandard shipping whatever flag it flies. Accordingly, the Marine Safety Agency inspects 30 per cent. of foreign ships visiting UK ports and also publishes monthly lists of those ships which are detained. We also fully support work in the International Maritime Organisation to improve compliance with international conventions.