§ 4. Mr. Osborne
asked the Minister of Labour the causes for the decline of British shipbuilding to third place; to what extent the factors of price, quality and delivery date, respectively, have contributed to this decline; and, since new orders in 1958 were for only 497,000 tons, the lowest for 10 years, and cancellations were 454,000 tons, if he will call a conference of both sides in the industry to see how poor productivity and labour problems can be eliminated, and so avoid widespread unemployment.
§ 23. Mr. Lewis
asked the Minister of Labour if he is aware that the Government's economic and financial policy has resulted in the decline of British shipbuilding to third place, and that this policy has affected the factors of price, quality and delivery date; and, since new orders in 1958 were for only 497,000 tons, the lowest for 10 years, and cancellations were 454,000 tons, whether he will call a conference of both sides in the industry to devise methods for bringing about an improvement in productivity, and a reduction in costs, and so avoid widespread unemployment.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)
The situation is that Japan and Germany have increased their tonnage launched while launchings in this country have for some years remained stable. In the present circumstances of world trade, it is certainly a matter of urgency for the two sides of the industry to get together for joint talks on questions of productivity and the efficient use of manpower, and I understand that this is under active consideration by the industry; in the meantime I do not think that it would serve a useful purpose for me to call a conference as suggested by hon. Members.
§ Mr. Osborne
Is it possible for my right hon. Friend to get his public relations office and the responsible trade union leaders together so that the facts may be put in front of the men engaged in the industry and it may be made clear to them that unless our prices come down they cannot have full employment?
§ Mr. Macleod
This is a very important matter, but I do not think the approach suggested by my hon. Friend is the right one. I very much want to see the two sides of this industry getting together on these matters in the light of the recent report issued from the N.J.C. It is much better, if possible, for the industry to do this itself.
§ Mr. Willey
In view of the enormous increase of world capacity, does not the right hon. Gentleman think we ought to take some initiative in promoting an international conference to consider both world capacity for shipbuilding and likely future requirements?
§ Mr. Macleod
That goes a long way beyond this Question, and it is not one which should be addressed to me.
§ Mr. Robens
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that questions of price, quality and delivery dates are not purely ones for the operatives and that examination of management and management methods is also very important? Would not it be wrong if it were felt that we in this House were saying all the time that the problems of the shipbuilding industry rested on the labour which is employed? Would not it, therefore, be more appropriate for a joint meeting to take place quickly so that the true facts can be ascertained?
§ Mr. Macleod
I am quite sure that we would not dissent in any way from that. This is obviously a joint problem.