HC Deb 30 May 1961 vol 641 cc177-213

Again considered in Committee.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. Willey

I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, after "construction" to insert: in the United Kingdom and subject to such conditions regarding sub-contracting and other work as the Minister may prescribe". I think that it is clear that the difficulties which many people have felt about this Bill and in opposing it outright are due to the concern which they feel about the shipping and shipbuilding industries. When the pledge was first given, I think that most people first thought of the shipbuilding industry. The pledge to build two more "Queens" which the Prime Minister gave during the General Election was evocative in the sense that it brought back recollections of the aid given in the 'thirties to the building of the "Queens", memories of Lord Kirkwood and of the aid given later in different forms to shipbuilding and shipping.

It is in that light that we put forward the present Amendment. I do not wish to go at any length into the present condition of the shipbuilding industry, but if we look at the two Reports which have been published recently, we find that we have very good reasons for being concerned about the future of this great industry. The first of these Reports was that of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and we find this in the first of the conclusions: The world shipbuilding industry is facing a major and probably prolonged recession. Secondly, There is no indication that the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry has on balance any marked technical or economic advantage over its major foreign competitors apart from its large home market. In the more recent Report of the subcommittee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee about the prospects of shipbuilding, a disturbing picture is given of the immediate prospects of the shipbuilding industry. The Report calls our attention to the fact that: A number of yards which build small and medium-sized ships are already feeling the pinch, and will soon have no work unless new orders can be secured, and even the yards which build big ships are beginning to be affected. It goes on to say: The impact on particular areas is difficult to forecast as it depends to some extent on where new orders will be placed. It appears likely, however, that the fall in shipbuilding employment may be most severe in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Paragraph 22 states: With such prospects the industry is clearly faced with a testing period which will be a challenge to management and men if the industry is to weather the storm and be prepared to take full advantages of the possibilities when demand recovers. Bearing this background in mind, we put forward the present Amendment, and we have to consider the proposal in this Bill against that background. The support which is being given to the Cunard Company will undoubtedly be very welcome to one great British shipbuilding yard, but it will cause severe disappointment in five other yards. I can speak objectively about this, because the shipyard on the Wear is not one which could build a Cunarder, though we on the Wear are facing difficulties, too. What we think—and this is why we are putting forward this Amendment—is that if we are considering the aid that we are giving to the Cunard Company, not only on the grounds considered so far in our discussion of the first Amendment, but also as aid to shipbuilding—and I am sure that we need not differ unduly about this—the right hon. Gentleman will be anxious to see if possible that the aid should be spread. That is why, in a further Amendment which I believe, Mr. MacPherson, you do not intend to select, we make specific reference to the Local Employment Act, 1960. I refer to the Amendment in page 1, line 10, after "construction", insert: in a United Kingdom shipyard but subject to conditions providing that as far as practicable engineering and other equipment will be supplied from other areas included in the list of development districts under the Local Employment Act, 1960". There is an opportunity to do this in the case of shipbuilding because shipbuilding is an assembly industry. It depends on a host of ancillary industries and a whole pattern of sub-contracting. I know that the right hon. Gentleman can tell the Committee that it is extraordinarily difficult to provide for what we have in mind in moving this Amendment. I am sure that he will share our anxiety that if this substantial aid is given—and given indirectly to assist shipbuilding—it should go so far as possible to those areas which are suffering particular redundancy.

That is why I have mentioned Scotland and Northern Ireland. Obviously the placing of this contract in either Scotland or Northern Ireland would directly affect only one of those areas. Both, says the Report, are likely to be badly affected. It is possible in providing aid to see that some of the aid shall go to a particular district and be shared by another, or other, districts. I concede at once to the right hon. Gentlement that it is difficult to provide for this by legislation. A tender is made and accepted, but one would hope that the Minister would use his good offices to see that, as far as possible and as far as reasonably could be done, help should be given to areas which might be particularly badly hit. That is why we have worded the Amendment in this way and not placed an obligation on the Minister by saying "The Minister may prescribe."

I hope, and I am sure that the Committee hopes, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to accept the Amendment. If he accepts it, it will strengthen his hand in taking any action he feels able to take. This would help those of us in other shipbuilding areas, those who represent the five districts which will not secure the tender. Without trying to impose an impossible obligation on the right hon. Gentleman, I hope that he will accept this Amendment and that when the time comes he will try to exercise it by using his influence to see that in sub-contracting and other work the question of redundancy in other areas will be borne in mind.

Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) with considerable apprehension. I do not want to be unfair because the problem of unemployment in shipbuilding areas places a tremendous responsibility on both sides of the Committee. When the hon. Member was speaking, however, I could not help wondering—as I noticed that in the Amendment he wishes to put all responsibility on the Minister —whether there would not be precious little safeguard, should the Amendment be accepted, for the north bank of the Tyne, which has considerable subcontracting industries.

10.30 p.m.

There would be precious little safeguard that the sub-contracting facilities that exist and that are available on the north bank of the Tyne would be used if the implications contained in the speech of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North are correct. I should like the hon. Member for Sunderland, North, or one of his hon. Friends who supports the Amendment, to tell me just what the Opposition has in mind. I should particularly like to hear the views of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) on this subject, for I have given that hon. Gentleman notice of my intention to mention his constituency in connection with these Amendments.

It is all very well putting the responsibility on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport for trying to get as wide a spread as possible after the contract has been placed. But the terms used by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North in addressing the Committee made me so terribly apprehensive about my part of the world—the north bank of the Tyne—that I am wondering just what would be the result of those implications if the Amendment were accepted.

I understand, of course, that the second Amendment will not be called. May I point out, however, that that Amendment makes what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North wants much clearer than does the Amendment at present under discussion. However, when the hon. Gentleman mentioned the Local Employment Act every bit of me, every hackle I have—and I have plenty of them—rose up in defence of the north bank of the Tyne.

I fully appreciate that if the Bill becomes law, if the tender is placed and if the contract goes to some area other than the Tyne—and I still hope that Swan Hunter and Vickers-Armstrong are going to be fortunate—and if this Amendment is accepted and the responsibility is placed on my right hon. Friend, pressure may be exercised on the Minister by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Although the Amendment does not mention the development areas, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North mentioned them.

I can imagine the pressure that will be put on the Minister. Hon. Members know only too well that sometimes I am not in favour of the Minister's actions, but I am tonight. I am just wondering whether the Minister would be in a position to throw the north bank of the Tyne to the lions, the tigers or the bears—or whatever the south bank of the Tyne might be.

If that were the case I should be absolutely against the Amendment. I wait with interest to see what the Minister has to say about this. Although I do not see the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West in his place, I should be interested to hear what he has to say on this subject, since he has put down his name in support of both Amendments. However, I want to know how the north bank of the Tyne is to be protected.

Mr. Willey

I know the north Tyne well enough not to wish to throw it to the bears or the lions. The purpose of the Amendment is to help the north Tyne. Supposing—as the hon. Lady and I do not believe—that the contract does not go to the Tyne but goes to the Clyde, and at the same time there are redundancies on the Tyne. We should like the Minister to be in a position to assist the Tyne by giving work, if possible steered to the firms which might subcontract and which the hon. Lady mentioned.

Dame Irene Ward

The hon. Member speaks with honeyed words. I know him well enough to realise that he can produce very honeyed words. It is all very well for him to say that he knows the north bank of the Tyne, but when he moved the Amendment he specifically referred to the Local Employment Act, and that Act does not affect the north bank of the Tyne. Let us suppose that on the North-East Coast we want some of the sub-contracting work. His Amendment would very cleverly take to the south bank all the sub-contracting work available for Tyneside. None would go to the north bank. I hope that my right hon. Friend will hold the ring fairly between the two banks of the Tyne. I await his speech with great interest.

What did the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West, who is on the north bank of the Tyne, mean by signing an Amendment which must apply only to the south bank? I find that incomprehensible. I believe in straight speaking, and I should like to know exactly what we are committing ourselves to as a result of the Amendment.

The other issues in the debate have been all-embracing, but this Amendment deals specifically with shipbuilding areas. It is a great pity that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West put his name to the Amendment. It may be that his name was put down without his being asked. I do not always see eye to eye with my right hon. Friend, but I know that he wants to be fair about this. With my colleagues from the north bank of the Tyne—excluding the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West—I do not want to have to take all the pressure which would be exerted from the overwhelming number of Socialist Members from the south bank. I want to protect the north bank. I do not want anything in the Bill which will be disadvantageous to the shipbuilding and sub-contracting areas which I and my colleagues have the honour to represent.

I hope that before we proceed much further we shall be told the intention of hon. Members opposite. If they had been permitted to move the second Amendment we might have had a clearer picture. It is very fortunate for the hon. Gentleman that the second Amendment is not to be called, because my language would have been much stronger than it has been. I therefore look forward to hearing the views of my right hon. Friend, and I hope that he will not sell the north bank down the river.

Mr. Deedes

I do not claim to represent either bank of the Tyne, but I must say that this argument illustrates one of my misgivings about the shape of the Bill. Although I share some of the misgivings of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), I think that this Amendment is ill-conceived. As I see it, it takes us unnecessarily in the direction that I most mistrust—towards dividing administration by the Government and the Cunard Company in the building as well as in the running of this ship. It offends the principle that has been supported on both sides that we should not interfere in the day-to-day administration of a nationalised industry—which we should most certainly get if this Amendment were accepted.

More seriously, this seems to me to aggravate one of the worst symptoms in the Bill, which is that both the Government and the company have a share in the business but neither has a full share of the risk or the administrative responsibility. That is how the worst decisions can be made. And when it comes to planting sub-contracts—which I can readily see will be subject to great political pressures, and for very good reasons—I think that having the Government in harness with the Cunard Company, as the Amendment would prescribe, would lead us into the most impossible position in the building of this ship.

I would only add that, unlike some hon. Gentlemen opposite, I incline to think that decisions of this kind are often best made in the board room. The board room has the mechanism for getting these things right. I do not say that it is always right, but it has the mechanism, and it has some very good instruments for shining the red light when things are going wrong. That mechanism has been a very stable friend to commerce and industry.

It is this collusion between the board and the Government that most suspect and fear in this kind of Measure, and it is just this kind of Amendment that will produce the most uneasy alliance between the two which brings out to me the very worst features of the Bill. As I think that this Amendment is calculated to bring out the least happy features of the Bill, I hope that my right hon. Friend will resist it.

Mr. Mellish

I am one of those who believe that one of the good purposes of the Amendment is to plead for certain areas. I do not deny that political pressures are inevitable. As in Northern Ireland there is now nearly 8 per cent. unemployment, as the people there face the threat that by the end of the autumn 50 per cent. of those now working in the shipyards will be sacked, and as those people cannot possibly find employment elsewhere, there will obviously be political pressures.

I concede to the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward)—who says that she does not want honeyed words—that she made a frank and honest speech. She wants security and safeguards for her own constituents—

Dame Irene Ward

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me—not necessarily in my own constituency. I have ship repairing in my constituency—the biggest ship repairing yard in the world. We ourselves are not great sub-contractors, but the north bank of the Tyne is a great sub-contracting area.

Mr. Mellish

Then I will put it that the hon. Lady has certain vested interests locally that she wants to keep going—

Dame Irene Ward

That is right.

Mr. Mellish

It is a tragedy that those who represent Northern Ireland constituencies are not here tonight to defend their own people. That is why I am speaking now. Every hon. Member who represents a Northern Ireland constituency sits on the benches opposite, and this Bill is the very lifeblood and the the future of Northern Ireland. The ironic thing is that only about a fortnight ago we had a very stirring debate in which, I think, every Northern Ireland Member took part. They told their electors that they would fight to the last ditch to overcome unemployment, and so on—although at the end of the day, of course, they voted for the Government, and the Motion they put down was rather like a Loyal Address to the Queen. Nevertheless they criticised the position.

10.45 p.m.

I want tonight to get it on the record that Northern Ireland cannot be ignored in this matter. We do not know yet who will get this contract. That is the big question surrounding these debates. We in London cannot build the ship and we shall not get the contract. If the Clyde gets it, still it would be a tragedy indeed if some of the work consequent upon that order were not given to Northern Ireland to do. We cannot turn our backs on people like that.

The Northern Ireland Members ought to be here staking a claim for their people. I repeat, that the unemployment in the shipyards in Northern Ireland is a tragedy. I am speaking as one who believes that one day we shall get here some Members representing Northern Ireland who will sit on this side of the Committee, not on the Conservative side, and who will have understanding of the problems of the people of Northern Ireland, problems which ought not to be settled, as they have been, on the religious argument. There is not one Member from Northern Ireland here tonight. It is shameful. I, at any rate, am here to stake a claim for Northern Ireland.

Mr. P. Williams

It is with a certain amount of regret that I must now part company from the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), but the regret at leaving him is tinged with pleasure at being able to join my right hon. Friend. I hope that he will be resisting this Amendment, and I hope that he will be resisting it because of the contradiction which appears to me to come out of the Opposition's policy on this matter.

The line taken earlier on the benches opposite was concern with the economy of the nation and the conservation of Government funds, and the implication of that was that hon. Members opposite wanted these funds to be used as efficiently as possible. Now they are changing their tune, and they are changing from talking about economy and the efficient use of money to talking about the use of the money for social purposes. I think it can be argued that the money could be used for social purposes, but it ill becomes Members of the Opposition, who earlier today, not so much in the past, changed their side, now to talk about social service expenditure. That is, I believe, to be totally illogical. It also introduces a principle into this Bill which, I think, would be wholly unwelcome to the Committee.

Mr. S. Silverman

I echo the hon. Member's regret at parting company, but I cannot follow his argument. Surely there is no inconsistency in saying first that it is better to spend £12 million than £18 million if the £18 million is unnecessary, and, having failed in that, then to say, if we are going to spend the money, for heaven's sake spend it where it is most needed and where it will do the most good?

Mr. Williams

Yes, but I think the hon. Gentleman could not have been here for the debate on Second Reading.

Mr. Mellish

He was.

Mr. Williams

If so, I apologise to the hon. Member for that remark, but I suspect that he was not here the whole time and did not hear my speech—and probably he did not think it worth while to read it—but I went out of my way to make the point that there was danger in accepting this Bill if the Government then were able to say that they have shuffled off their responsibilities for shipping and shipbuilding generally. If one applies the principle of the hon. Member for Sunderland, North of using expenditure in this way, to spread a social service, to give a leg-up to shipbuilders and components manufacturers throughout the land, one is running into the danger of putting the Government in the position, which, it may be, they would like to adopt, where they could say, "We have honoured our obligations to shipping and shipbuilding."

That is a position I do not want to see them get into, because, whether we pass this Bill or not, there is a heavy responsibility on my right hon. Friend and on my hon. and gallant Friend of a much wider implication and of much greater importance than the limited confines of the North Atlantic shipping. This is the second reason why I hope my right hon. Friend will not accept this Amendment.

Therefore, my grounds for hoping he will reject it are, first, because I believe that it is a running away from the sound economic principle which the Minister sees in this Bill, if one accepts the general principle of the Bill. Secondly, it would be wrong to have expenditure of this nature in the form of a social service.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Is it the hon. Member's "sound principle" that shipping should have a general subsidy?

Mr. Williams

I said, "If one accepts the principle of the Bill" and I think the hon. and learned Member realises that I do not altogether accept the principle. But if one accepts the principle of a subsidy to Cunard, which is the subsidy in the Bill and not a subsidy to shipping, I say that that money should be used as efficiently as possible and not for social purposes. There is a much wider responsibility on the Government to see that there are sound shipping and shipbuilding policies for the nation, which are wider than anything in the Bill. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will not accept the Amendment.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) is in a sense inverting the argument. He is saying that because the Amendment is a little good in some ways and we all want the general good we should vote against the little good because we cannot have the general good. Does the hon. Member believe in a general subsidy for shipbuilding? I do not think that his argument is anything more than Jesuistic, with due respect to him, and with due respect to the Jesuits too. It is nothing more than a clever argument. He is appealing in particular to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in relation to the Advisory Committee's Report, which is in fact on the form of a general subsidy of one kind or another, or a form of Government help. I take exception to this because the whole Bill is designed along the lines of aiding shipbuilding and ship repairing in this country. This is my belief and this is why I would support it. It is outrageous that we should subsidise one company to this extent but because we see this as an integral part of shipbuilding we should support the Amendment.

The hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Dame Irene Ward) was, with respect, a Donna Quixote tilting at windmills. We are only being reasonable in asking for the distribution of subcontracting not only on a businesslike basis but on the social considerations that go with it. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) gave us a laissez-faire argument which is wholly foreign to the Bill. The very fact that we have had so many speeches from hon. Members from so many areas, hoping and pleading that the contract will come to their areas, is proof of the fact that some of us are trying to bring it to our own rivers which will shorty face considerable unemployment. This is not an unreasonable proposition. Is it therefore unreasonable that those of us who do not take a dog-in-the-manger attitude should say that if the contract goes to one river, then other rivers, not favoured by the geographical fact of selection, should not end by not having fair consideration in sub-contracting?

What do we mean by fair consideration? I would point out that the terms of the Amendment are not unreasonable. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South does us an injustice in saying that we are swinging over to an extreme and are saying that contracting should be for social service purposes. The Amendment does not say that. It says "as far as practicable". It is very modest but it is very important to the Minister in enabling him to take administrative convenience as a basis. This is hardly a social service consideration. I do not think that is fair. That is why when I refer to the hon. Member for Tynemouth in this regard I think she is being unfair to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell). It is perfectly valid that he should append his name to both Amendments and seek to argue the case.

It is reasonable for a firm to argue that its tender is a good one and that on balance the Minister may say that it is a good tender as opposed to a tender in a difficult area, but that things are not all equal and that, therefore, he must give the contract to an area where unemployment is not as high as elsewhere because the tender is good. It would be wrong to say that this is a social service argument.

What I mean is that it is possible within the terms of either Amendment for the Minister to say, "I should accept a tender in north Tyneside which has a lower unemployment figure than south Tyneside because it is less costly in terms of efficiency and the spending of public money, which makes it desirable." We are saying that, all things being equal, it is reasonable that the Minister should intervene as he has promised to do in the allocation of the entire contract.

We have had this argument time and time again, and the Minister's words have been quoted at different junctures to suit different versions of whatever people wanted. The right hon. Gentleman has been very good in supplying different versions of what people wanted. Equivocation has been almost at a premium in this matter. But we know that the contract will not simply and solely be allocated to the yard which can produce the best tender. We have been told that other considerations will be given their due weight. That is all these Amendments seeks to do in relation to sub-contracting.

I cannot see how this is foreign to the Bill. Indeed, I think it is intrinsic to the Bill. By the definition in Clause 1 it is intrinsic to the Bill. I do not see how the hon. Member for Ashford can say that applying the principle in relation to sub-contracting is different from applying the principle to the general contract.

Mr. Deedes

Has the hon. Gentleman eliminated from his argument all possibility that in certain cases the subcontracts may go overseas? Does he realise that under the terms of this business the Cunard Company will pay any costs over and above the £30 million that the ship may cost? In some cases it is possible that sub-contracts overseas will be cheaper than at home. Is the company to be precluded from making such contracts?

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I should not like to see any of the contracts going abroad. I am willing to admit that it is possible for the company to have no other recourse, but British shipbuilders should be given the chance to produce contracts which are fair in competition. I do not know what my hon. Friends mean in their Amendments in that regard, but if they are insisting that contracts should stay in the United Kingdom, then I support them.

We have a good record in relation to the production of many pieces of equipment for ships. In my constituency we have a very good firm which produces steering gear. I would say that even if that firm put in a tender—I am not advocating this; indeed, I do not know whether the firm is putting in a tender—which was slightly above one from, say, Holland, our equipment would be far better than that made in Holland. I say that not as a result of local pride. This firm has been making these pieces of equipment for hundreds of years.

Mr. R. W. Elliott (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)

Does not the hon. Gentleman appreciate that it is upon the basis of his very argument about efficiency that my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) are resisting the Amendments? It is simply because they suggest that possibly the north bank of the Tyne, by making itself efficient and by managing to put forward tenders which are based on efficiency, and, because they are efficient, are in themselves competitive, may be eliminated, if the Amendments are accepted, from the possibility of subcontracting in relation to the tender. This seems to me to be very unfair.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Is it not the case—I think that this gets to the nub of the argument—that there is no "absolute" in this? In my opinion, it is wrong for anyone to say that efficiency should be the sole determining factor. The Bill makes no pretence about that. That is, if one likes, the Ashford argument.

The other argument, which has been put into our mouths but which is not ours, might be called the Sunderland, South argument—that there should be a social service award of the sub-contracting. The proposition supporting this Amendment is neither one nor the other of these arguments, however. It is neither in favour of efficiency and nothing else, nor of social service and nothing else, but is based on a balance between the two.

It is reasonable to want to write into the Bill the second factor—namely, that the Minister's discretion in relation to the allocation of the contract should be based on factors other than that solely of efficiency. That is all we are asking for, and I am sure it is something that the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott) may feel able to support.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

I want to speak on behalf of the south bank of the Tyne, and I object to its being suggested that there is some kind of civil economic war between the north and the south banks. On two recent occasions I have welcomed the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) into my constituency. The first was when I opened an extension of a factory for ladies' lingerie, and the second was when a shipbuilding firm in my constituency launched a ship.

On those occasions, she and I were united in an effort to secure employment for Tyneside. My experience is that, although people live on one bank of the Tyne, they are very often employed on the other. What Tyneside needs is further employment, irrespective of the side of the river on which the employment is provided, and I am certain that there are a number of constituents of mine who work in the hon. Lady's constituency and that many of her constituents come across on the ferry to work in mine—and that situation exists right along the river.

I came down from my constituency yesterday morning by the train that left South Shields at six minutes past seven. It was crowded. People got out at intermediate stations and others got in. Many got out at Newcastle, by which time they had crossed the river and were going to employment on the north bank. This is a great industrial area that cannot afford to have the kind of internal enmities that the hon. Lady attempted to engender, and, as far as I am concerned, I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity given him by this Amendment to see that, where the subcontracting work can be well done, it shall be done, the widest possible considerations being borne in mind. For, if the Government are not here to do that in these days of grave economic trouble in our shipping and shipbuilding industries, it is time they realised that they should make way for people who will do the job.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

I do not propose to enter into the battle between the north and south banks of the Tyne. I support the Amendment, which is a reasonable one. I have examined the Bill as it stands and I find nothing in it to prohibit this ship being built outside the United Kingdom. That is what the first part of the Amendment proposes to rectify, and I do not think that anyone in this Committee could object to insisting that the ship be built in the United Kingdom.

The second part of the Amendment concerns sub-contracting. I do not know whether it follows from this part that the sub-contracting must be done in the United Kingdom, but I hope that it does. This is a very big contract to allocate. The chances are that it will go to one of five shipbuilding yards. Having regard to the parlous state of the shipbuilding industry, surely the other yards should share some of the benefits to be derived from this contract.

I hold no brief for any of these yards. I do not represent any of them, but I am a Member for one of the steel constituencies, and I must declare an interest in this matter. I should take a dim view of the Bill if any part of this ship were eventually constructed of steel made outside the United Kingdom. I respectfully submit that the Amendment should be accepted.

Mr. Willis

I do not wish to enter into the battle of the shipyards either, but I want to refer to some of the remarks we have heard from hon. Members opposite, apart from the merits of the north bank of the Tyne. I would remind the Committee that we are here providing £18 million worth of capital. Surely any Government providing that amount of money have a duty to see that the capital is spent in the interests of the whole nation, and in a way which will bring to the whole nation the greatest possible benefit.

The argument that the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) advanced was that this was not necessarily getting the most efficient results. It all depends upon what we mean by "efficient". It might not be so efficient for the industry, but Governments have much wider considerations when they talk of efficiency. We are considering the efficiency of the whole nation. From a national point of view it might be much better to spend a little more and prevent a large number of people becoming unemployed in a district already badly hit by unemployment. There are many other considerations which contribute to the efficiency of a nation, apart from the single one of a firm's efficiency, or the cheapest way of getting a ship.

The other argument, advanced by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), was that this would give us the worst of all possible worlds. The Bill itself does that. Every time we subsidise private industry we get the worst of all possible worlds, because we are paying out large sums of public money over which we have no control. One of the complaints repeatedly made by hon. Members on this side of the Committee is that we should have some control. That is not a great demand to make when we are providing this vast sum of money.

I wonder if, in private industry, a bank would provide £18 million worth of capital without having some say in how it was to be spent. If it is right for private industry to do this sort of thing, why does it suddenly become wrong for the people as a whole to do it? I know of nobody who would hand over £18 million in a carte blanche fashion—certainly not in private industry. The Minister knows that the whole of industry is riddled with interlocking directorships, specifically for the purpose of guiding contracts, here, there and everywhere.

Mr. Deedes

Is the hon. Member prepared to back the Amendment and his argument by saying that the Government, rather than the Cunard Company, should pay anything over the £18 million that the ship may cost?

Mr. Willis

If that situation arose we would probably do that, but that is another of the facts which are continually confronting us, particularly in relation to the Service Departments. About £10 million may have been spent on modernising a ship for the Navy, and the Treasury may then be faced with the question whether it should spend another £2 million or cut it out altogether. What happens as often as not is that the Treasury gives permission for extra money to be spent. That has happened repeatedly. "Victorious" started at an estimated cost of £2 million and ended up at £18 million. I should not be surprised if, in the event of this ship costing more, exactly the same thing were to happen.

I was trying to show that the whole of private industry is governed by these interlocking directorships specifically for the purpose of guiding orders and contracts to this or that firm or to some district or other. That is how private industry works. I feel rather deeply about these things, without having a financial interest. If it is good enough for private industry, I fail to see why it is a bad principle for us to adopt, so that we say that we are providing capital to the tune of £18 million and we want some say in how it is to be spent in order to achieve the best results for the nation as a whole.

That is the duty of the Committee. Hon. Members opposite spend a great deal of time telling us in connection with money advanced to nationalised industries that it is their duty to discuss the amount spent, and they are prepared to detain hon. Members to a late hour, and we get long speeches from several hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. I have no objection to that, because I believe that it is the duty of hon. Members to consider these things, but I do object when they adopt an attitude towards one industry different from that adopted towards others.

The Minister is responsible for seeing that the expenditure of this sum of £18 million does the greatest possible good. The Amendment asks first that the ship should be built in the United Kingdom—quite a humble demand. Surely we are not providing £18 million to build it somewhere else. Secondly, it asks that it should be built subject to such conditions regarding subcontracting and other work as the Minister may prescribe. I suppose that that would take the form of a general directive and would not be the detailed interference in the affairs of the company of which the hon. Member for Ashford spoke. The general directive would say that the Government would like certain work to go to certain areas in view of the unemployment situation or other factors there, or for some good national purpose.

That is a simple and humble request which should be granted without much debate. I cannot understand why we should have had such a long debate. It seems self-evident that these things should be done. When I saw the Minister rise I thought that he wanted to accept the Amendment and so end the debate. However, if not, I hope that he will give us a better argument than we have had in the course of his previous speeches and that, if he cannot answer us satisfactorily, my hon. Friends will divide the Committee.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

In view of the persuasive speeches which have been made, I feel sure that the Minister will accept the Amendment. I venture to draw his attention to the fact that without the Amendment the Clause is quite unqualified. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) referred to the words: on such terms as may be agreed between the Minister and the Company for the purpose of the construction of a large vessel…. The Minister has only to read those words to see that the matter is left entirely at large between the company and the Minister.

In a question of such magnitude, not only financially but with regard to the employment situation in the country, it is not right that such a matter should be left entirely at large. All that the words we seek to put into the Clause do is to put a limitation on the power of the Minister as regards the place where the vessel can be made, and the place where sub-contracts can be carried out.

Attention has already been drawn to the fact that as the Clause stands this £18 million could be spent outside the United Kingdom. The Minister must be well aware that many contracts for shipbuilding and ship repairing are going to Germany and other places outside Great Britain. It would be a crime against the economy of this country to allow contracts of this magnitude and of this kind to go outside the United Kingdom.

There is another aspect to this. As the Minister knows, shipbuilding and ship repairing involve many subsidiary and ancillary industries. It is not right that a matter of this magnitude should be concentrated in one area which may perhaps already be congested. The Amendment seeks to allow the sub-contracts to be spread throughout the country. By inserting the words "in the United Kingdom", the Amendment seeks to ensure that the contract for this vessel will not go outside the United Kingdom.

The Amendment refers to: such conditions regarding sub-contracting and other work as the Minister may prescribe. The sub-contracting and other work could be effectively carried out in other places. I do not want to make a constituency matter of this, but we in Aberdeen have fine shipbuilding yards which could carry out the sub-contracting. I do not see why Aberdeen should not have some of it. It would be wrong to concentrate these sub-contracts in areas which are already congested.

In view of the persuasive arguments which have been put forward by hon. Members, I ask the Minister to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Strauss

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

I would be unwilling to accept that Motion at this moment.

Mr. Marples

I hope that I might be allowed to reply to what has been a very interesting debate lasting over an hour.

Mr. Mellish

On a point of order, Sir William. I do not wish to challenge what you said, but do I understand that you were not willing to accept the Motion moved by my right hon. Friend because the Minister was about to reply? I understand that the Motion to report Progress and ask leave to sit again cannot be moved until half an hour after the Sittings Motion has been disposed of, but that time has passed. I thought it right that my right hon. Friend should move the Motion that he did. Did you base your Ruling on the fact that the Minister was about to reply?

The Deputy-Chairman

It is a discretion imposed on the occupant of the Chair, and it was in my discretion that I decided not to accept the Motion at this moment.

Mr. Marples

We have had an interesting debate on this Amendment. I am told that the next Amendment will not be called. It would, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), restrict the Minister, and make more precise what he has to do with regard to sub-contracting. The Amendment which we are discussing seeks to do two things: first, to restrict the construction of the main ship to the shipyards of the United Kingdom. To that extent it is unnecessary because the Cunard Company has issued tenders only to firms in this country and has no intention of going outside. Nobody would have time to tender, and so to that extent the Amendment has been met by administrative action.

Secondly, the Amendment seeks to limit the supply of what I call bought-out items of sub-contracting to what are termed development districts in the Amendment not selected. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) who moved the Amendment, was not precise about it. I did not follow from his speech what he expected me to do or how he expected me to use this authority. He spoke of those areas suffering from redundancy, and he mentioned Scotland and Northern Ireland. Many of the sub-contractors are in development districts and to that extent the Amendment is unnecessary.

It would be undesirable to go further and to restrict the company's freedom of choice of sub-contractors on their merits. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), the Chandos Committee made certain recommendations and the Government got a better bargain. One of the ways is that the Government pay on the ratio of three to two up to the cost of £18 million for the Government and £12 million for the company. At less than £30 million the Government pay at that ratio; at more than £30 million the company pays. Surely it would be wrong for the Government to dictate that the company should go to places where it would be more expensive and where perhaps there would not be the value for money, and—

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

But would the right hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Marples

Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to finish.

I remember that there was a misunderstanding on the North-East Coast when it was thought that Swan Hunter and Vicker's would be at a disadvantage as the only tenderers not in a development district. About a score of hon. Members opposite put down a Motion which is still on the Order Paper. It reads: That this House views with concern the statement of the Minister of Transport, that in the event of equal tenders being submitted for the new Queen liner the contract would go to a yard in a development district, in view of the fact that this would exclude Swan Hunter's shipyard; calls upon the Minister of Transport to note that in the area in which Swan Hunter's shipyard is situated the percentage of unemployment is twice the national average; and is of the opinion that if Swan Hunter's shipyard were discriminated against merely because the shipyard itself is not sited in a development district while the greater part of the North-East is scheduled, this would amount to grossly unfair discrimination against the North-East. I must argue that this Amendment puts potential sub-contractors in precisely the same position as hon. Members opposite who signed that Motion thought that the main contractor would be put. Therefore, they condemn me for putting the main contract in this way, but they ask me to do precisely the same about the sub-contracts. The request was made in rather vague terms. Although I appreciate the reasonableness of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, that was clearly what he had in mind. But he was vague about how it could be done.

I shall not enter into the controversy between the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth. I was grateful for her support today and also for that of my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams). One never quite knows who is on one's side in the House of Commons and this was a unique combination. I want the Cunard Company to get the best possible value for the ship, but I should not like to be the Minister who had to decide on the vague criteria which the hon. Member for Sunderland, North mentioned in his opening speech on this Amendment. The pressures that I as Minister would be subjected to would be quite intolerable.

I have always said that the main contract will go for value for money, but if there were five or six firms tendering for the main contract and when they put in the main price we said "You must alter that sub-contract and go somewhere else", that would be a most inefficient way to proceed. I have had experience of sub-contracting in civil engineering. I assure the hon. Member that what he proposes would be impossible administratively and intolerable politically. Therefore, I hope that the Amendment will not be accepted. I have always said that the main ship should not necessarily go to the lowest tender but for the best value, and that includes price, delivery date and technical assessment of the ship. I have always said that and never varied from it.

I do not think that at this late stage with these vague criteria—[Interruption.] An hon. Member says, "With no regard for unemployment". How can any Minister say that a sub-contract which gives good value for money should be overturned, that the North East should not sub-contract and that it should go somewhere else where unemployment is high? How high has it to be? Who judges that? It would place an intolerable burden on a Minister. When I ask for wide powers I usually get criticised, but I should be very reluctant to accept this responsibility. I hope that the Committee will reject the Amendment.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

The Minister said that he would give way, but he has not done so. That is an old trick and unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman. I should like him to explain this. The subsection provides that the terms should be such terms as may be agreed between the Minister and the Company. Apparently it is settled that the ship shall be built in the United Kingdom. It is also provided in subsequent subsections what the terms in regard to rates of interest and so on shall be. So the phrase such terms as may be agreed is not intended to apply either to the ship itself being built in the United Kingdom or to the financial terms applying to the agreement. To what does it apply? To what is this subsection directed? What are the terms which "may be agreed"? What category of terms has the Minister in mind which do not apply to the place of building of the ship or the financial terms in the agreement?

The Minister says that this has not to do with sub-contracting, because he derides the suggestion that sub-contracting should be dealt with in any way except at the complete discretion of the Cunard Company. Apparently, the Minister is not to have any say of any kind in regard to the sub-contracting terms. By what criterion does he say that it is important that the ship should be built in the United Kingdom when he completely washes his hands of the sub-contracting arrangements? The sub-contracting arrangements may be extremely important. They may be extremely important to the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). This is extremely important to those on the southern bank of the Tyne, to the Clyde, to Northern Ireland and to other areas—yet all the Minister addresses himself to is the place where the ship itself, the main bulk, the main contract, is to be built.

11.30 p.m.

This is utterly impossible. Is the Minister really saying that he is not in the least concerned with sub-contracting matters? Is he saying that that is entirely a matter for the Cunard Company to decide? Is the Minister washing his hands of the whole affair, whatever may be the employment conditions in any area? That is what he is saying. That it is utterly unacceptable to hon. Members on this side of the Committee and must surely be unacceptable to hon. Members on the Government benches, especially those with unemployment problems and especially in view of the speech made by the hon. Member for Tynemouth who was so concerned about the northern bank of the Tyne.

What does the Minister mean? I want to know. Is he washing his hands entirely of sub-contracting provisions, because that is what it seems he is telling the Committee. If so, why does he wash his hands of the sub-contracting provisions when, apparently, he says that it has already been said that the ship will be built in this country? If it is important that the ship should be built in this country, it is equally important that the sub-contracting should take place in this country.

If the terms in subsection (1) do not apply to the placing of the main contract, to what do they apply? How on earth is the Minister to operate the provisions in the agreement …on such terms as may be agreed between the Minister and the Company…"? What category of terms are to be subject to agreement between him and the company? I hope that hon. Members will receive a further reply from the Minister before we depart from this Clause.

Mr. Willey

I see that the Minister intends to speak again on this subject. May I, before he replies further, assure him that I share the disappointment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas)? I think that the Minister is improving and I think, also, that if I state our case once more he might be able to reconsider the matter and perhaps meet us in our request.

I do not wish to make the point about building the ship in the United Kingdom. We should have a provision to that effect in the Bill, at the same time being proud that the ship is to be built here. I agree that that is a matter which should not be left to agreement which is not a part of the Bill. But in agreeing that there is no question of the ship being built elsewhere than in the United Kingdom, may I inform the Minister that it will be built here or the Minister will not be in office the next day?

Since we are discussing the component parts of the ship, the Committee should face something which is disturbing the workers in this industry, and that is that more and more of the component parts of ships being built in Britain are being supplied from abroad. That is a reflection, I agree, on certain sections of the shipbuilding industry.

I do not subscribe to the point of view of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliott), and I believe it was implicit in the speech of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), that we can disregard this matter. This is a question of the British taxpayer's money. We are concerned about the effects of this aid and we want to ensure that it provides employment for British workpeople. It is right to say that the Minister had better retain a supervisory control and see that as far as possible this is a British ship in every sense of the word.

This is important because the company ordering can largely determine what is provided. Surely it is not placing an unreasonable burden on the Minister to say to him, "You entered into an agreement with Cunard. Carry this a stage further and be in a position to show the House and the British taxpayer that as far as practicable—we shall not ask you to take any unreasonable steps—you satisfy yourself that the British shipbuilding and ancillary industries get the benefit from the money which is being advanced."

May I deal with a point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth? Our difficulty is providing a criterion. In this Amendment we provide none but the good sense and sound judgment of the right hon. Gentleman, which his back bench colleagues are apparently unwilling to support. If we seek criteria we are bound to look at the Local Employment Act or to suggest other criteria. In this Amendment we leave it to the Minister. It is not a question of placing the contracts. We are dealing with sub-contracting or, in the right hon. Gentleman's words, with bought-out matters. We recognise that there would be difficulties in implementing the Amendment, but we are not placing an obligation upon the Minister which he must discharge. We ask that he should use his best endeavours to see that as far as possible British industry is supported.

This money is a direct, enormous assistance to the shipbuilding industry; £3¼ million is not a flea-bite. But because of the project it will go to one yard. All we ask is that in the subcontracting work, the bought-out work, as the Minister described it, regard should be had to the difficulties being faced by shipyards and industries in other districts. This is not strange to the Government. I will give two illustrations. The proposal is made in the Sub-Committee's Report to which I referred that in naval work this factor should be borne in mind. I am not saying that the cases are parallel, but if regard were had to that Report the Government would have to place the work without disregarding redundancies and difficulties in the shipbuilding industries. The other examples to which I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention is the Local Employment Act under which the Government give assistance when the firm or company cannot obtain the money and the Government decide that it would be in the public interest for it to extend its work in a district of severe unemployment. This is on all fours with such a case. The Cunard Company says, in effect, "We cannot raise the money in the market. We should like the Government to provide us with the money on favourable terms, as well as with a grant". The Government's interest is the same in this case and the decisions which they take are similar.

I do not for a moment say that this is an easy matter, nor do I deny that the right hon. Gentleman would be subject to very real pressures. I share my hon. Friend's surprise that the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends from Northern Ireland have not thought it fit and proper to be present this evening. I hope that their absence will be borne in mind by their constituents, because we all know that there is very real concern about shipbuilding in Northern Ireland.

In this day and age, the Minister cannot escape responsibility by saying, "This would be a very difficult task to perform, and I would be subject to very real pressures." That is part and parcel of Government today. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at this matter again. If he does not like the wording of the Amendment, let him suggest better words. All the same, I think that it gives him a very wide discretion, and places on him a general obligation to see that as far as possible when a very large order such as this is given, the effects upon industry as a whole should be borne in mind, and that where it is proper to see that work goes to areas facing particular difficulty the work will go to those areas.

When one is dealing with sub-contracting one has to bear very much in mind the financial tie-ups between ancillary firms and that it is that that determines a good deal of the sub-contracting. That may not be desirable, any more than it would be desirable for components to be made abroad. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman, having got the authority of the Committee to advance £18 million, will recognise that it places a very heavy public responsibility on his shoulders, and that he will help in the discharge of that responsibility by saying, "Certainly, if this aid is being provided for the Cunard Company I will see that, as far as conforms with efficiency and the orderly carrying out of the contract, the work will go where it is most needed."

Mr. Marples

I must say that I thought the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) was most reasonable—and a little more hesitant than usual in putting forward his views, because he himself recognised the difficulties—

Dame Irene Ward

Well, he made a bloomer.

Mr. Marples

If I may say so, he made another. This is not on all fours with naval work and the recommendations of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee. He said that those giving out the naval work were supposed to take these things into consideration, but the actual recommendation was that if it was at all possible the orders from the Navy should be accelerated. It did not, however, go on to say where the orders should be placed. The orders are put out to competitive tender, and it has paid the Navy so to do. To that extent, the hon. Gentleman was wrong in saying that this was on all fours.

The hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that the major problem facing our shipbuilding industry was to get all the orders from our shipping firms. If it were able to do that it would not be far short of having full order books. We know that more of our shipping firms' orders are going abroad than has been the case in the last twenty years. Among other reasons given, it is said that the firms abroad are more competitive in price, will give a fixed delivery date and, on some occasions give longer credit.

I have seen some of the shipping firms individually and, in confidence, they have told me what the figures are. I share the hon. Gentleman's apprehension about this, and that is all the more reason for saying that if, in this international industry, our shipbuilding industry is not competitive it will ultimately be doomed, whatever the Government may do. That is why I think it wrong not to judge this on the basis of merit.

The hon. Gentleman asked me what Clause 1 (1) meant. If he will look at paragraph 26 of the Memorandum on Points of Agreement he will find that it quite clearly states: The specification upon which the invitations to tender are based, the evaluation of the tenders when received and the final contract for the construction of the ship and any modifications and variations subsequently made materially affecting that contract or its performance to be the subject of mutual agreement between Cunard and Her Majesty's Government. 11.45 p.m.

What, in effect, will happen is precisely what happens when we give a road contract or a bridge contract: the consulting engineer sends in his report, analysing all the tenders, and the Government make their decision upon the commercial, technical and financial considerations. It does not say that we should disregard those and give an order elsewhere; because there are no criteria on which to do that. As I say, it will be exactly the same here as it is with roads and bridges.

The real point is that the Yarrow yard, the Admiralty Research Department, my Ministry officials, and Cunard will evaluate these tenders, and they will judge what is commercially the best proposition for the nation—which, naturally, will be the best proposition for Cunard as well, because Cunard's interests are identical. It is in the interest of Cunard to keep the costs down, because if they go high, it pays for them, and it will only get the ship at the end.

With all respect to the hon. Member, who put his case most reasonably, I think he himself recognises the difficulty in which I should be placed in trying to interpret the provision of his Amendment. It would be a virtually impossible position. I see that his heart has dictated the Amendment. I can assure him honestly that I do not see how it could be carried out. I hope that, with the reasonableness we all associate with him, he will withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Willey

I am sure that the Committee is greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. We see he is coming nearer to us, but my heart dictates—I have a real constituency interest in a shipbuilding area—that we show our dissatisfaction with the conclusion to which he has come by dividing on this Amendment.

Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

I am concerned at the Minister's reply. What the Minister has said is that sub-contracting is being sent out from this country to yards abroad because the yards abroad are cheaper. He himself is very much and deeply concerned about that position. That is his first proposition. His second is that Cunard is to have exclusive control of the sub-contracting and the Minister is not going to interfere with it in the least. If the Minister wishes to modify what he has said, instead of sniggering, I will give way to him. He does not. He wants to continue sniggering? All right. His third proposition is that the Cunard Company will, of course, go to the most economical market. Those are his three propositions. The fourth is that Cunard will almost inevitably go abroad for subcontracting. That is the sum of what he has said.

Mr. Morris


Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas

Of course it is scandalous.

The Minister contemplates a substantial amount of sub-contracting of this company going abroad. He is doing that with his eyes wide open and is not taking any steps at all to prevent it or to remedy the position in the least. Yet, nevertheless, he calls upon the Committee to support that proposition. I trust we shall most strongly oppose it.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:

The Committee divided: Ayes 42, Noes 118.

Division No. 179.] AYES [11.50 p.m.
Awbery, Stan Hannan, William Morris, John
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Herbison, Miss Margaret Parkin, B. T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Holman, Percy Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Rankin, John
Delargy, Hugh Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Ross, William
Diamond, John Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Kelley, Richard Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Gaitskell Rt. Hon. Hugh McInnes, James Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Galpern, Sir Myer Manuel, A. C. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mellish, R. J. Sylvester, George
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Wilkins, W. A. Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Thorpe, Jeremy Willey, Frederick
Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Williams, W. R. (Openeshaw) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wainwright, Edwin Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.) Mr. Sydney Irving and Mr. Lawson.
Agnew, Sir Peter Goodhew, Victor Peel, John
Barter, John Gower, Raymond Percival, Ian
Berkeley, Humphry Green, Alan Pilkington, Sir Richard
Biggs-Davison, John Gresham Cooke, R. Pitman, I. J.
Bingham, R. M. Grimond, J. Pitt, Miss Edith
Bishop, F. P. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Pott, Percivall
Black, Sir Cyril Gurden, Harold Quennell, Miss J. M.
Bossom, Clive Hall, John (Wycombe) Ramsden, James
Bourne-Arton, A. Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Box, Donald Hastings, Stephen Rees, Hugh
Boyle, Sir Edward Henderson, John (Cathcart) Renton, David
Brewis, John Hendry, Forbes Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Bullard, Denys Hocking, Philip N. Seymour, Leslie
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Holland, Philip Shaw, M.
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Hollingworth, John Skeet, T. H. H.
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hopkins, Alan Smithers, Peter
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Cleaver, Leonard Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Cole, Norman Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Studholme, Sir Henry
Cooper, A. E. Hughes-Young, Michael Tapsell, Peter
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hutchison, Michael Clark Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Corfield, F. V. Iremonger, T. L. Turner, Colin
Coulson, J. M. James, David Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Jennings, J. C. Walder, David
Curran, Charles Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Walker, Peter
Dalkeith, Earl of Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Wall, Patrick
Deedes, W. F. Litchfield, Capt. John Ward, Dame Irene
Drayson, G. B. Longden, Gilbert Watts, James
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Wells, John (Maidstone)
Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.) MacArthur, Ian Whitelaw, William
Emery, Peter McLaren, Martin Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Errington, Sir Eric Maddan, Martin Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Finlay, Graeme Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Wise, A. R.
Fisher, Nigel Mawby, Ray Woodnutt, Mark
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Worsley, Marcus
Gammans, Lady Montgomery, Fergus
Gardner, Edward More, Jasper (Ludlow) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gibson-Watt, David Noble, Michael Colonel J. H. Harrison and
Glover, Sir Douglas Osborn, John (Hallam) Mr. Frank Pearson.
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Mr. Strauss

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I do so in order to find out from the Government what their plans are about the remaining stages of the Bill. The hour is late, there are a number of Amendments on the Order Paper that we have not yet dealt with which are highly controversial and very important, and there is the Third Reading of the Bill, which has to be taken at some time.

We should be very grateful if the Leader of the House would tell us, in view of the progress that has been made already, what his future plans are and when we can be expected to conclude the remaining stages of the Bill.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

The Motion is quite understandable. However, I do not think we have made as much progress as we ought to have made. A great deal of time has been taken up on a matter which is of great national importance; namely, the future of the British shipping industry and shipbuilding, which I feel certain that hon. Members opposite do not in their hearts want to oppose, although physically they have opposed it a great deal tonight, which will be noticed by the country.

What I suggest as a reasonable understanding with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—[Interruption.]—yes, this is the "menu card"—is that we should deal with the next Amendment. It is in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who does not appear to be present, but the names of other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, including the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), are attached to it. I agree that the remaining Amendments raise further issues in relation to the securities and equities involved, which I believe are of great interest to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee.

If we did that, I suggest that we should settle the rest of the Bill in half a day, including Third Reading. If that is agreeable to Members opposite, I think that it would be a reasonable understanding, and that we should undertake to get tonight the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Easington which, I understand, is to be called, and then call it a day. If this suggestion seems reasonable, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not persist with his Motion.

12.0 midnight.

Mr. Strauss

I think that the proposal put by the Leader of the House is reasonable. It is always very difficult to discuss properly and effectively important matters in the middle of the night, and it would be more effective and satisfactory to everybody if we discussed these matters of great principle some other time. I have consulted my right hon. and hon. Friends who are most interested in this matter, and they all agree that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is reasonable and proper, and will co-operate to do what they can to conclude discussion of the remaining Amendments and the Third Reading within half a day. They feel that we will be able to do that and express fully the strong views which we hold on this matter. In view of the right hon. Gentleman's proposition, which is acceptable, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) says that he has consulted his hon. Friends about the withdrawal of this Motion and about the arrangement he has apparently made with the Government. I am sure he would not dissent from the proposition that he has not consulted either me or some of my hon. Friends.

Mr. Strauss

I consulted all those who have shown, up to now, a special interest in this Bill. I have consulted all those who have spoken or shown special interest. If I have not consulted my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) it is because, for some reason, he has not spoken or has, so far, been absent from the debates.

Mr. Foot

As a matter of fact I have been in the Chamber listening to discussion of the Amendments since about half past nine. I know that it is a remarkable state of affairs for anybody to be present here who is not seeking to make a speech, but I have listened for the last three or three and a half hours, and I think that I am as entitled as many other hon. Members to engage in the debate.

I shall not hold up the proceedings, and I do not dissent from the general proposition that has been made, but I think that we are entitled to say that nobody has consulted me and some of my hon. Friends about the arrangements made either for business tonight or business to take place on a subsequent occasion. My hon. Friends and I will take the proper Parliamentary course, when it comes to the discussion in the other half day the Government are to provide, to listen to the answers given from the Treasury Bench, see whether, in our view, they are satisfactory, and then make up our minds about our course of action according to those answers.

If I might be so diffident as to offer advice to my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, I think it would always be a better course for them if they were to see the kind of conduct which Ministers display before agreeing about the point at which a debate should be terminated. It is a much better way of extracting from the Government courteous and possibly satisfactory replies—though that is a great deal to ask for from Ministers.

We are all glad to see the Leader of the House back here in his most tactful mood. He seems to have learnt a great deal in recent weeks. Instead of making big speeches at small dinners, he has come to try to smooth things over in the Committee, and we are glad to see him back. But he must not think that he will get his own way everywhere because the Prime Minister got him out of a fix earlier today. He must recognise that when we discuss the later part of the Bill the answers which Ministers give will determine the rate of progress. I have been here only for three and a half hours, but if the answers are anything like those we have had from the Minister of Transport today it may take longer than half a day to conclude the business on this Bill.

It is an astonishing exhibition that the Committee has had. I was not present at the time—[Laughter.]—I was not referring to the Minister's speech, but to the analogy that I was about to make. I was not present at the time when the then Sir Thomas Inskip was the spokesman for the Government, but some hon. Members have remarked that no such brilliant and skilful defence of the Government has been made since those days until the Minister's speech today. I think that is agreed on all sides. In fact, the best course for the Government to take is to take the whole Bill away. It is extremely unpopular with hon. Members on both sides. There has been no logical defence of it, and I very much doubt whether the Minister believes in it. It would be much better if he took the Bill away. Indeed, that may happen before we come to this promised half day.

All I can say—speaking for a few of my hon. Friends—is that we are as entitled to say what we think as any other hon. Members, and to give our views upon the way in which the business should be conducted. Whatever may be the views of some hon. Members on this side of the Committee, or hon. Members opposite who are so frequently opposed to the Government, in our opinion no undertaking should be given until we have heard what the Government have to say.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Mellish

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, at the end to insert: Provided that the vessel conforms to such conditions regarding the standard of crew accommodation to be provided in the vessel as shall be prescribed by the Minister after consultations with organisations appearing to him to represent substantial proportions of the persons to be employed in the vessel or any class of such persons. The purpose of the Amendment is to provide some guarantees with regard to the accommodation for the crew on board this very expensive ship. The ship will cost at least £30 million, and we are naturally concerned to ensure that those who will serve her—and serve her well, in whatever capacity—should have the most modern accommodation. I have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) to say that he has been in contact with the National Union of Seamen, and I understand that that union, in its turn, has been in contact with the Cunard Company on this matter. My right hon. Friend tells me that both parties have come to an amicable arrangement about these matters, and that the union is not alarmed at the position.

But it is right to provide that, since £18 million of public money is to be expended, the Government should take an interest in this matter and give us certain assurances. I should be willing to withdraw the Amendment, if its wording is not suitable, if, at a later stage, the Government were willing to provide for the necessary guarantees to be inserted. I am sure that the principle of the Amendment is the correct one, and I hope we can be given the necessary assurances.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

I very much appreciate the way in which the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) moved the Amendment, which, as he said, has the object of providing a guarantee in relation to the accommodation of the crew. I can at once confirm that there has already been contact between the seamen's union and the line and I think also the appropriate officers' associations of the line as well.

The effect of the Amendment would be to make the Minister prescribe special standards of crew accommodation for this vessel after the special consultations for this purpose had taken place with the seafarers' organisations. I remind the hon. Member for Bermondsey and other hon. Members that in any case the vessel must comply with the Ministry's requirements for crew accommodation. Those are set forth in the Merchant Shipping (Crew Accommodation) Regulations which are reasonably up to date—Statutory Instrument No. 1036 of 1953, issued under the authority of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1948.

Those Regulations are kept up to date from time to time and I observe that the most recent amendment was laid before Parliament as recently as 19th March this year and came into force on 1st May. I mention that to show that the Regulations are kept up to date. Moreover, they were framed in consultation with the seafarers' organisations and are based on the International Labour Convention No. 92 which was agreed by both sides of the industry.

I have looked into this matter rather carefully. I have had a quick look at the design of the ship and the accommodation to be provided will not only comply fully with the Regulations, but in many respects will exceed them. For example, I understand that the entire crew accommodation is to be air conditioned, and also that a cinema is to be provided for the exclusive use of the crew. I give those as two examples.

We feel that the existing Regulations and the procedure for applying them will be sufficient and that it would be undesirable to prescribe special conditions applicable only to this ship. That is something which might be misunderstood and I do not think that is necessary. In general, the accommodation will be fully in accord with the best and most up-to-date practice and the seafaring organisations will, of course, have every opportunity to put forward their views upon it. That being the case, I very much hope that the hon. Member will see his way to withdrawing the Amendment.

Mr. Mellish

I am glad to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary has had to say. This will be a great ship, a show boat, a great prestige ship, and it is therefore right that the crew accommodation should be quite remarkable. I am glad to hear that there are already ideas in the design for air conditioning and so on and for a cinema. For £30 million one could almost provide a cinema for each member of the crew, but certainly there should be one for the lot.

With that assurance and in the confidence that the crew will benefit from what will undoubtedly be a very great ship, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Marples

I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I do so in view of the exchanges between the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again this day.