asked the Prime Minister what steps he proposes to take to restrict or control the use of flags of convenience by ships trading with the United Kingdom; and if he will place in the Library a copy of his public statement made on 29th March on this subject.
We have no immediate proposals on this issue, Sir. But Her Majesty's Government have consistently maintained that there should be a genuine link between a ship and her country of registry. As to the second part of the right hen. Gentleman's Question, I was answering questions at a Press Conference without a prepared text and the right hon. Gentleman must therefore rely on newspaper accounts of my remarks.
We must await the report of the inquiry which has been conducted by the Liberian Government while still reserving our position as to whether a further inquiry is necessary under our own auspices. That will be the time to consider those questions.
This was in the course of a long Press conference, and I was very much pressed on this question. I said what I felt. Many people in the past, not least our own seamen's union, have often made the point about flags of convenience to us. I thought it right to say this. I have no evidence—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I have no evidence as yet as to the exact mistake made in navigation, or whether that was related to its being a flag of convenience ship.
On a point of order. The ship which was bombed in Haiphong harbour was carrying the British flag. The hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Geoffrey Wilson) suggested that that was an abuse of the British flag. I was asking whether, whatever the flag, the bombing of ships in Haiphong Harbour was a dangerous escalation of the war in Vietnam.