HC Deb 03 February 1960 vol 616 cc994-5
17. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a further statement on the provision of nuclearpower propulsion for merchant ships.

24. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Transport when his Department expects to be in a position to place orders for a prototype nuclear marine-propulsion unit; and when he estimates this unit could be undergoing sea trials.

Mr. Marples

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave to hon. Members last week about this, except that invitations to tender for a nuclear-propulsion unit have now been issued.

Mr. Willey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is rather disappointing, because I had hoped for a further statement? The reaction to what he said last week is that there seems to be an arguable case that we have lost so much ground in this field of research that we ought to pay more attention to the more advanced forms of reactors submitted to the Galbraith Committee. Will he look at the matter again, as it might be a means of catching up in a race which we appear to be losing?

Mr. Marples

In this matter, we must bear in mind the astonishing rapidity of big changes now going on all over the world. They are not necessarily solved by going into production. They may be solved by looking at things, and we think that asking for these tenders is the best way of dealing with the matter. The decision whether the ship should be built must be taken in the light of the tenders disclosed.

Mr. Wall

If my right hon. Friend takes a decision to build the prototype, could he say what is the minimum time before the ship could be in the water?

Mr. Marples

A ship using a pressurised water reactor might perhaps be got to sea by 1964, but it might well be worth while waiting a little longer to secure the benefits of either the boiling water or the organic liquid moderated reactor.

Dame Irene Ward

May I ask my right hon. Friend if he is bearing in mind that if we do not make a forward step soon, the lead which the British shipbuilders have over the whole trade might well be lost, as this period of four years is rather too long a time to wait before the prototype ship begins to start operation?

Mr. Marples

We had better wait a little longer until we have got the tenders, for which we have now issued invitations, which I think my hon. Friend will admit is a forward step.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Can the Minister say how long it will be before this power could be available for fishing trawlers?

Mr. Marples

I could not give an answer without notice.

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