HC Deb 07 July 1960 vol 626 cc665-7
1. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies to what extent Messrs. Baileys intend to develop Malta Dockyard during the next two years; what number of merchant ships have been refitted since the Admiralty handed over to Messrs. Bailey; and what number are expected to be taken in hand within the next two years.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Iain Macleod)

Before Bailey (Malta) Ltd. took over the dockyard on 30th March, 1959, it had been formally agreed that the conversion and re-equipment of the yard and the setting up of the company would be carried out on the basis of a£6¾ million plan. Her Majesty's Government's loan contribution to the plan was to be£6 million. The work of conversion was expected to begin in August, 1959, and to be completed by March, 1964.

Messrs. Baileys in January this year submitted a revised development plan to Her Majesty's Government. This plan would involve a considerable increase in the cost of the conversion and has required the most careful examination. It was by no means certain that the additional expense would be justified in terms of additional work and employment. The recent talks with the company have also been prolonged by the necessity to deal with certain other issues relating to the operation of the financial agreement. I hope that all these discussions will soon be finalised and that the development of the yard will proceed, so that the next two years should see very considerable progress towards creating a commercial ship repairing yard in Malta. Her Majesty's Government stand by their undertaking to provide up to£6 million for the conversion.

In answer to the second part of the Question, I am informed that 132 commercial ships have entered the docks for repairs since Baileys took over, but I am unable to make the forecast called for in the third part of the Question.

Mr. Wall

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the inevitable delay in the start of the conversion of the Malta dockyard will lead to any redundancy on the part of dock workers?

Mr. Macleod

I hope not, but these talks have been going on for a very long time and I think it is urgent that they should now move to a conclusion.

Mr. Callaghan

While we all desire to see the utmost employment in Malta, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is investigating the allegations, made very strongly in Cardiff and Barry, that because of some of the difficulties involved in this matter Baileys are diverting ships which would normally be repaired in those yards to Malta? This is creating, and will continue to create, a lot of feeling. Will the Minister assure us that this will not happen?

Mr. Macleod

That is a new point to me. I have not heard of that anxiety in Wales, but I will certainly look into it.

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