HC Deb 04 August 1939 vol 350 cc2814-5
37. Mr. Howard Gritten

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the contract of the National Shipbuilders Security, Limited, with Irvines Shipbuilding and Dry Docks Company, Hartlepool, he will see fit to have the covenants rescinded as being plainly against public policy, especially in view of the fact that in the event of war the utmost output of vessels would be vital to this country's necessities.

Mr. Stanley

I have no power to interfere with a private contract of this nature. With regard to shipbuilding in time of war, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave on 2nd May last to a question by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson).

Mr. Gritten

Would it not be for the convenience of hon. Members asking questions that Ministers in their replies should repeat what the answers were to which they refer, and would it not be more courteous too to hon. Members for them to do so?

Miss Wilkinson

Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean to say that when a private company such as this, which is engaged in actually closing down and selling for scrap urgently needed shipbuilding machinery, he has no power to intervene in the interests of public policy?

Mr. Stanley

I have no power at the moment. As I explained to the hon. Lady on that occasion, there is a surplus of shipbuilding capacity in this country, even taking into consideration possible war requirements.

Miss Wilkinson

Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that, according to the statistics issued by his own Department, the shipping in this country is far below 1914 standards? How, therefore, can he say that he is taking into consideration all future requirements when the cutting down of shipyards has been so drastic; and does he not think that the time has arrived for some sort of committee of enquiry into National Shipbuilders Security, Ltd.?

Mr. Gallacher

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that 100 years ago they would have got hung for that?

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