HC Deb 23 July 1952 vol 504 cc518-9
26. Mr. F. Willey

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty why less merchant shipping has been completed and laid down this year than in the corresponding period last year.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

Twenty-eight thousand gross tons more of merchant shipping were completed in the first six months of 1952 than in the corresponding period in 1951. There was, however, a slight fall in the number of actual ships completed. The corresponding figures for shipping laid down show a fall of 55,000 gross tons. I should point out, however, that shipbuilding is an industry with a relatively long production cycle, and a comparison of completions and tonnage laid down over so short a period as six months is not a reliable guide to production trends.

Mr. Willey

Is the First Lord aware that the "Lloyds Returns" issued this morning show that the tonnage of merchant shipping laid down in the last quarter is the lowest for any quarter since the end of the war? More serious still, is he aware that this represents only 19 per cent. of the tonnage of merchant shipping laid down in the world during that quarter, and is a very serious threat to one of our major industries?

Mr. Thomas

As I said to the hon. Gentleman, there is no direct relationship between tonnage completed and keels laid down during particular periods, particularly so short a period as that about which he asked.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, while there has been no cessation of shipbuilding, so far as cargo liners and similar vessels are concerned it is predicted that there is going to be a serious shortage in tramp shipping—that is the opinion of experts in the shipping industry—and will he give his attention to that matter?

Mr. Thomas

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for calling my attention to the matter, but it is a different question from the one which appears on the Order Paper.

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