§ 17. Mr. PEARSON
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware of the anxiety which is felt regarding the activities of National Shipbuilders' Security, Limited, in buying up and dismantling shipyards, and in disposing of the sites under restrictions against further use for shipbuilding; and whether he is satisfied that the operations of the company are not prejudicial to the interests of the community?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am aware of the anxiety to which my hon. Friend refers, and I have otained from the company some explanations and assurances on the subject. The company have informed me that, so far as is consistent with their objects of assisting the industry by eliminating redundant and obsolete shipyards, their policy is to buy up berths for dismantling as evenly as possible between the shipbuilding districts of the country and as between all classes of work. The existing shipbuilding capacity is still far in excess of any likely requirements, and at no time during the last 10 years have more than half the berths available been occupied with work. Last year work was proceeding on only 5 per cent. of the building berths and at the present time, when the position of the industry has somewhat improved, the percentage is still only 27. The company have also assured me that they make every effort, in conjunction with local interest, to dispose of disused sites for employment by other industries and that they have succeeded in doing so in several instances. Moreover the policy of the company does not involve the withholding of consent to the further use for shipbuilding of land sold under restrictive covenant where it can be reasonably shown that the interests of the 183 nation or of the industry make it desirable to re-establish a shipyard; and if the company were satisfied that in fresh circumstances any site could be profitably re-employed, they would not stand in the way. Such restrictive conditions as have been imposed would, the company state, never be utilised to jeopardise output in any time of national emergency.
§ Mr. LAWSON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the activities of this company in the long run make it certain that some shipyards will never be used again, in spite of the statement which they make?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am afraid that that is not the only reason which would account for the fact that some shipyards will not be used again.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
Is it not the case that the operations of this company are based on the assumption that the tariff policy of the Government is not in the interests of shipbuilding?
§ Mr. MAXTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether this company, which I understand exists for the destruction of capital, makes a dividend?
§ Mr. DICKIE
May I ask whether this company is to be allowed to pursue its activities without any regard to the social consequences?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
If the hon. Member will study the answer, which I am afraid I read with great rapidity, he will probably see that therein lies the answer to his question.