HC Deb 28 October 1953 vol 518 cc2766-7
1. Mr. Willey

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many orders for new tonnage to be built in North-East Coast shipyards have been cancelled since 4th June this year; and what is the total value of such orders cancelled so far this year.

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas)

Since 4th June, four licences issued to North-East Coast shipyards have been cancelled. I estimate the total value of orders cancelled in that area, so far this year, at about £3 million.

Mr. Willey

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these cancellations have a heavier impact on the smaller yards than on the larger yards?

Mr. Thomas

Yes, very definitely. I think the larger yards are not unhappily placed, but I am getting rather worried about the smaller yards.

Mr. P. Williams

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether these are cancellations of bookings or cancellations of orders? There is a great difference between the two.

Mr. Thomas

Cancellation of orders.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Would the right hon. Gentleman also say what proportion of these cancellations is in respect of orders for oil tankers?

Mr. Thomas

I am afraid I cannot give that information without notice.

Sir W. Smithers

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I have reason to believe that there is great anxiety in the North-East shipyards because of the loss of orders for repairs and shipbuilding, which are going to continental ports because the cost is lower and the turn-round is quicker? Is not this due to the fact that their people are working harder than we are?

Mr. Thomas

I cannot go into details of that kind. Foreign competition is one of the causes of these losses.

2. Mr. Willey

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the number of orders placed with North-East Coast shipbuilders; and the amount of tonnage ordered so far this year as compared with the number and amount for the corresponding period last year.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

Orders for 19 ships totalling 113,200 gross tons had been licensed for North-East Coast shipbuilders up to 20th October this year, as compared with 69 ships totalling 568,400 gross tons in the corresponding period of 1952.

Mr. Willey

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay serious attention to the information which he has given to the House, because when we discussed this matter 12 months ago the Civil Lord dismissed my view of the industry as being too pessimistic and short-term? Would he not agree that it was right and long-term and that the time has come when the Government must seriously consider the future of this industry?

Mr. Thomas

I read with great care the answers given to the hon. Gentleman by the Civil Lord, and I can assure him that nothing I have said today is out of step with what the Civil Lord said to him before the House rose for the Recess.

Mr. Logan

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking any precautions to safeguard the position in connection with repair work on the Merseyside?

Mr. Thomas

The Merseyside and all shipbuilding areas are very much in our minds at the moment.

Mr. Willey

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.