HC Deb 28 January 1930 vol 234 cc823-4
14. Major COLVILLE

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has definite information regarding any ships laid down for the purpose of carrying coal to Canada, consequent on his visit to that country; and, if so, with what firms the orders for these ships have been placed?


I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave on this subject on 19th November last to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), of which I am sending him a copy.


Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman told us, at the end of last Session, that these orders either had been or would be placed? Can he now tell us what progress has been made with the placing of orders for the building of these ships?


It is quite true what I said distinctly in the House that, in the judgment of those who were dealing with the business, it would necessitate the building of five new ships. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I stated that in the House. I am now in a position to state that I have had a communication from a firm of shipbuilders who have been asked to tender. In addition, I received a communication yesterday morning dealing with the finance, which was then a matter of negotiation.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us, seeing that this question is so important from the point of view of unemployment, who are the shipbuilders with whom he is negotiating, and, when the orders are given for the ships, can he say to what part of the country they are likely to go?


The House wishes to be fair. Nothing would be more unfair than for me, in a matter of this kind, to indicate or suggest that it was my responsibility to ask a firm to place their contracts anywhere. I told the House distinctly that I have received a communication from a firm of shipbuilders.


Will the right hon. Gentleman now admit that his statement last June in the House regarding these five vessels was misleading?


It was not made last June. If I had misinformed the House, it would be my duty to say so, and I would have no hesitation in doing so. If at any stage that position is reached in connection with any of my business, I shall have the courage to say so, right away.


Arising out of the original reply, which referred to an answer which he gave to me on a previous occasion, does the right hon. Gentleman remember that the answer he gave me was to refer me to a reply which he had given to somebody else. The reason I have risen is to stop this evasion. We who come from shipbuilding centres want to know exactly what he is doing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I want to have a reply, and I think I have as much right to a reply as any other Member of the House.