Skip to main content

Defence Shipping Authority

Volume 486: debated on Tuesday 10 April 1951

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

45 and 46.

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether any consultations took place with British and British Dominion shipping interests prior to the conferences held in Washington in November, 1950, and March, 1951, when representatives of the British Government considered with other countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation the pooling of merchant shipping in war and the passing of control to the United States chairman of the international pool;

(2) whether Admiralty representatives, as well as officials of the Ministry of Transport, took part in the meetings in Washington in November, 1950, and March, 1951, concerning the terms of the legislation to be passed through Congress under which control of British merchant shipping would pass to the United States representative in charge of the shipping pool of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in time of war.

I have been asked to reply, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport from which it will be seen that both sides of the British shipping industry were consulted. There is no basis for the suggestion in the last part of Question 45. The allocation of the tonnage placed in the pool would be undertaken by an international body representative of all the countries concerned.

With regard to the points raised in Question 46 the meetings in question were meetings of the North Atlantic Planning Board for Ocean Shipping and no Admiralty representatives were present.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows of no proposed United States legislation affecting the control of British merchant shipping in war, nor of any proposal for the control of British shipping to pass to any United States representative.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the planning board will remain under the Council of Ministers and not be transferred to any other body?

I think so. I do not want to be too dogmatic, but I think so. It is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and we shall be represented.

In his reply just now, the right hon. Gentleman said that he thought that the planning board would still remain under the Council of Foreign Ministers. May I ask if he realises that it is extremely important to Britain's interests that the planning board for shipping should remain directly responsible to the Council of Foreign Ministers and should not pass under any other body; and if there is any question of that, may we ask that this House should be consulted before it happens?

I think the hon. Gentleman is wrong in his nomenclature when he refers to the Council of Foreign Ministers. That is a body of four Foreign Ministers, which would be too restricted. But this is related to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and it certainly is not our intention that British shipping should pass under the direction or control of another individual country.

Would the right hon. Gentleman say what international body will control this merchant shipping pool and what British representation there will be on that body?

I have stated that it will be the North Atlantic Planning Board for Ocean Shipping.