HC Deb 07 December 1953 vol 521 cc1609-10
30. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Supply if he will now make a statement on the supplies and allocations of steel plate which will be available during the coming year for the shipbuilding and ship repairing yards in Aberdeen.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

I confidently expect that deliveries of steel plate to the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries will be greater next year than this year, and I have no doubt that Aberdeen shipyards will receive their share of these improved supplies

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister hold out the hope that there will be a regular supply of steel plate to the shipyards? Is he aware that the flow of orders to the yards is being restricted owing to foreign competition and that it is essential that the flow should be regular and great?

Mr. Sandys

I do not quite understand what that has to do with foreign competition. The total output of steel plate has been increased and, in addition, shipbuilders are getting a larger share of what is available.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Minister aware that there have been allegations that preferences in the delivery of steel plate are now being given in the light of decontrol of the steel industry? Is there any guarantee that when the steel industry is handed over to private owners there will be fairness as between one shipbuilder and another in receiving their allocation of steel plate?

Mr. Sandys

I think that anybody who is familiar with the conditions in the shipbuilding industry—which, judging from his supplementary question, the right hon. Gentleman does not appear to be—would agree that the supply of steel plate for shipbuilding and ship repairing has greatly improved in recent months, due to a large extent to the increased output and also as a result of the efforts which have been made by the inter-Departmental Steel Plate Committee. Supplies are improving and, I hope, will continue to improve.