HC Deb 24 January 1945 vol 407 cc810-1
32. Colonel Greenwell

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how soon the new Shipbuilding Committee he has recently set up will take over the work of issuing licences for the construction of merchant tonnage; and whether he is aware, in view of the necessity for maintaining steady employment in the shipbuilding industry and of increasing our export trade, of the urgency for an early decision on what volume of work can be permitted to be put in hand for foreign owners.

Mr. Alexander

The new Committee is an advisory body, and the Admiralty will continue to be the responsible statutory authority for the issue of licences. The answer to the second part of the Question is in the affirmative.

Colonel Greenwell

What was the urgency which made it necessary for the answer to this Question to be given in the public Press, before an opportunity occurred of asking the Question in this House? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, with berths falling vacant, orders that come in from foreign owners are already being refused licences?

Mr. Alexander

I am afraid that the question of publication in the Press has not been brought to my notice. I will look into it. In regard to the second part of the supplementary, I can only say that the Advisory Committee to the Ministry of War Transport are giving urgent attention to the particular need, and I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend will have reason to be dissatisfied with their decision.

35. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to ensure full employment in the shipbuilding industries and, in particular, if he will give an assurance that he will not purchase any of the 55 to 65 million tons of shipping which it is anticipated will be in the ownership of the U.S.A. at the end of the war.

Mr. Alexander

I informed the House on 1st November that a Committee had been established to advise my Noble Friend the Minister of War Transport and myself on the employment of shipbuilding facilities, and I then made it clear that this Committee would have regard to the arrangements most likely to contribute to the well-being, efficiency and stability of the industry. This Committee has already commenced its work. The second part of the Question is a matter for my Noble Friend the Minister of War Transport.

Mr. Kirkwood

I want to know whether the Admiralty in particular, and the Government in general, have any idea of taking these ships from America, because we shipbuilders in this country ought to know. This same thing happened after the last war, when we got the German mercantile marine, which ruined the whole industry, and the same thing is going to happen again.

Mr. Alexander

The point raised by my hon. Friend was dealt with in some detail by my Noble Friend in another place, and also in the Debate on 1st November. We have now set up a Committee, which, for the first time, I think, includes representatives of labour, and I am quite sure that all these matters will be considered in their proper perspective.

Sir A. Southby

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind very closely the grave mistake made after the last war, when we took over ships from Germany, instead of building them ourselves?

Mr. Gallacher

Will the Minister take note of the need for encouraging and developing shipbuilding after the war, and will he recommend to the Government the appointment of a special committee to deal with the development of travelling facilities for the people of this country to the Dominions and other countries?