HC Deb 23 April 1936 vol 311 cc297-9

asked the President of the Board of Trade (1) whether, in view of the large volume of unemployment on the northeast coast, he will state the reason for the large importation of foreign rivets into this country; the difference in price, if any, between British and foreign rivets; the weight of rivets, in tons, required for the building of a 9,000-ton ship, and the difference in cost, if any, between the home-made and foreign rivets; and will he see that preference is given to the British workmen;

(2) whether he is aware that two of the seven rivet works on the north-east coast are closed down for lack of orders and that large quantities of foreign rivets are being imported from abroad to supply the requirements of British owners under the scrap-and-build scheme; and whether, as this scheme is financed with public funds, he will see that employment is given to British rather than to foreign workmen;

(3) whether he is aware that during the last two or three months orders have been placed with Continental manufacturers for large quantities of rivets to be used in the construction of a number of vessels building or about to be built for British owners under the Government's scrap-and-build scheme; and why such orders were not given to firms on the northeast coast to employ British rather than foreign workmen?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

Under Section 11 of the Import Duties Act, 1932, goods imported into the United Kingdom and consigned to a registered shipbuilding yard for use in the building, repairing or refitting of ships in that yard may be imported free of any duty chargeable under Part 1 of that Act. I am not prepared to accept the suggestion that the repeal of this provision would lead to increased employment on the north-east coast. As regards ships building or to be built with the assistance of loans under the scrap-and-build scheme, the placing of further restrictive conditions upon applicant shipowners would tend to defeat the objects of the scheme. To achieve those objects it is essential that shipowners should be left to arrange their contracts with shipbuilders free from re- strictions of the nature contemplated which are not generally applicable to the shipbuilding industry.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question as to the difference in price, if any, between British and foreign rivets?


I am afraid I have no official information on that point.


Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my assurance that the difference is very small, and that therefore it would be very beneficial to employment on the North-East Coast if this work were given to the riveters in this area?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answer is an admirable statement of Free Trade policy, and will he therefore apply it in other directions?


The House took its own decision in regard to the shipbuilding proposals, and I have no reason for altering them.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the number of riveters required for the major part of shipbuilding in this country is available in this country?

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