HC Deb 03 March 1954 vol 524 cc1168-9
26. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many requests up to date have been made to Britain for permission to allow British shipbuilding yards to build ships for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; how many of such requests have resulted in contracts; with what British shipbuilding yards such contracts have been placed; and what is the kind of ship and value in money involved.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Wingfield Digby)

The only contract actually placed up to the present is one with a Lowestoft firm for 20 trawlers, the value of which is approximately £6 million. Apart from this order, no applications from shipbuilders for licences to build ships for the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have been received.

Mr. Hughes

Is not it a fact that the orders to which the Minister has referred are not comparable to the number of offers that have been made by the Russian authorities? Further, is he aware that Scottish shipbuilding yards badly need those orders, having regard to the poor inflow of orders for next year, and will he do something to stave off the threat of unemployment?

Mr. Digby

I am aware of the need for orders in some of the smaller yards. I believe that there are one or two other inquiries on foot from this quarter.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my hon. Friend aware that when shipbuilding firms in this country have not been permitted to build ships for Russia over a certain tonnage the orders have been promptly transferred to Europe, where they are fulfilled by our allies?

Mr. Digby

I am aware that there have been some orders placed in Europe, but the fact remains that an order has to be placed here before the Admiralty is requested to issue a licence. There has to be a firm application, and we have had only one firm application, which I have mentioned.

Mr. Dugdale

Does the hon. Gentleman include requests to build for other countries than Soviet Russia which are behind the Iron Curtain, or does he limit his answer to Soviet Russia alone?

Mr. Digby

If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Question, he will see that that would be outside its scope.

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