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Saudi Arabian Oil (Shipping Agreement)

Volume 527: debated on Monday 17 May 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware of the agreement entered into between the Saudi Arabian Government and Mr. Aristotle Socratis Onassis with regard to the transport of oil which will debar British shipping from participation in this trade; and, in view of the unfair discrimination against British interests, whether he will make representations to protect British shipping.

I understand that an agreement has been made, but the text has not yet been published. If it is confirmed that the agreement will result in discrimination against British shipping, I will certainly consider what steps can usefully be taken.

In taking this matter into consideration, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also bear in mind that if discrimination does result it is likely to cost Great Britain £10 million in invisible exports, in addition to the considerable work which might be lost to British shipyards?

Her Majesty's Government absolutely agree, and wish to make it quite clear that flag discrimination in peace-time is contrary to the best interests of international commerce and to the long-established practice of traditional maritime nations.

Is it not surprising—not only in regard to this but to other matters which have already been raised at Question time today—that the Government appear to be doing nothing? Why this inactivity? What would have happened if a Labour Government had been in power?

I imagine that if a Labour Government had been in power they would have been prodded by the Opposition. That is the duty of an Opposition. This is a serious matter, and there are many ways in which we can seek to bring pressure to bear upon other nations. I do not imagine that many hon. Members opposite would be in favour of going to war on an issue of this sort.