HC Deb 30 June 1954 vol 529 cc1324-5
7. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware of the adverse conditions that are still continuing to afflict the British shipbuilding and shiprepairing industry; and if he will specify the steps he is taking to resolve those adverse conditions and to maintain employment in that industry.

Mr. J. P. L. Thomas

The main problem confronting the shipbuilding industry has been the shortage of steel plate, but this has now been successfully overcome. The immediate outlook for the industry is good, although new orders will be needed soon. Employment in the industry is now increasing slightly. With regard to the shiprepairing industry, I would refer the hon. and learned Member to the reply which my hon. Friend the Civil Lord gave to the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) on 16th June.

Mr. Hughes

Does the Minister realise that, as compared with other nations, Britain is in grave danger of losing her traditional, pre-eminent place in the shipbuilding world, and will the right hon. Gentleman begin inquiries to find the cause with a view to eradicating it?

Mr. Thomas

I am well aware that we are moving away from the abnormal conditions in the immediate post-war years, and I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that we do not view the present position with any complacency whatever. We make every kind of inquiry to find out how the position can be improved. I would say that the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry has got nearly 2 million tons under construction and 3 million tons still to be laid down. That represents two to three years' work, and, although I am not being complacent about the matter, I think the position is not as bad as is sometimes made out.

Mr. Hughes

What about the position in the Scottish yards?

Mr. Gower

In view of the very competitive conditions with which we have been faced during the last year or so, is it not a fact that under this Government we have done far better in this respect as in other respects than we had any reason to anticipate in 1951?

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