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Post-War Shipping Policy

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 2 June 1943

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asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether his Department is aware of the statements recently made by members of the United States Maritime Commission to the effect that at the end of the war American Mercantile Marine will be the largest and fastest in the world; and whether any action is being taken to maintain the position of the British Mercantile Marine in preparation for the post-war situation?

Yes, Sir, I have seen the statements to which my hon. Friend refers. In shipbuilding, as in other spheres, the productive resources of this country and of the United states have been applied jointly to the greatest advantage of the war effort, and I am glad to have this opportunity of expressing the gratitude we all feel for the magnificent contribution made by the United States by their astonishing output of merchant ships. I am glad to assure my hon. Friend that the ratio of fast ships in our programme has been increased and that, so far as possible, it will be increased still further. We are resolved that, after the war, Britain shall continue to serve the world with a large and efficient merchant navy, but my hon. Friend will realise that our post-war shipping policy does not depend upon ourselves alone but that, in due course, it must be discussed with other nations. In the meantime, we have constantly in mind the measures required to make good the losses which the war has caused.

If my hon. Friend and the Ministry have the measures constantly in mind that are necessary in order to maintain the position of the British Mercantile Marine, will he not make some of the information available to the House at an early opportunity?

I am always willing to give any information to the House if it desires and if it is possible to publish it.

There are many schemes in preparation. My hon. Friend will understand that a healthy shipping must depend very largely on a healthy international trade. My Department cannot do everything.

Are we to understand from that reply that we cannot promote the maintenance in its new form of the British Mercantile Marine without entering into international discussions, and if we are to enter into international discussions, is it not necessary that we should be in a strong position?

I have said that we are determined to maintain a strong and efficient Merchant Navy, but the action required will obviously depend upon international conditions.

Will the hon. Gentleman dissipate the impression which might be given by his answer that this is a matter for Anglo-American co-operation during the war? Will he also pay a tribute to what the Soviet and Norwegian marines have done to dissipate the idea that America and ourselves are going to share the whole of the carrying trade after the war?

The Question refers particularly to the United States. I have taken every possible opportunity to pay tribute to our Allies.