HC Deb 27 July 1960 vol 627 cc1643-4
36. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Minister of Transport whether, in addition to his plans for nuclear tankers of 65,000 tons, he will consider inviting tenders for smaller nuclear ships, with particular reference to ships in the fishing industry, including factory ships and trawlers.

Mr. Marples

It is too early to consider this step for any but large ships.

Mr. Hughes

If there are any scientfiic objections to the application of nuclear energy to small ships and fishing trawlers, which represent one of Britain's major industries, will the right hon. Gentleman specify what they are? Does he agree that it is wrong to discriminate against the fishing industry in this way, and will he give his whole attention to this very important suggestion?

Mr. Marples

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for his important suggestion. I am bound to say that if nuclear power is to be applied successfully to merchant ships, it must be competitive in order to survive. Therefore, in the early stages, technically it will be necessary to apply it to large ships, and we will see what happens after that.

37. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Transport how soon after the closing date for the receipt of tenders for nuclear reactors he expects to place an order for a nuclear-propelled merchant ship; and to what degree the Royal Navy will assist in her development.

Mr. Marples

The Government will not be in a position to decide whether a nuclear-powered merchant ship should be built until the tenders have been assessed. This will be a highly complex task, and is bound to take several months.

As regards the second part of the Question, my Department is working in close touch with the Admiralty.

Mr. Wall

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the anxiety felt about the time the Galbraith Committee took to discuss the question? Also, did it not report some nine months ago? Will my right hon. Friend undertake to give his personal attention to this matter in order to try to get a nuclear-propelled merchant ship at sea as soon as possible?

Mr. Marples

My hon. Friend's supplementary question seems to me a little inconsistent. The Galbraith Committee recommended precisely the course of action which the Government have taken in order to get competitive tenders. As soon as the tenders are received, they will be carefully examined in detail.

Mr. Short

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this country is falling behind West Germany in respect of marine nuclear propulsion? Is not this one of the ways in which British shipbuilding could catch up again with our nuclear "know-how" applied to ship construction?

Mr. Marples

That is exactly what we are trying to do. As soon as the tenders are received, which will be at the end of the month, they will be examined most carefully.

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