HC Deb 12 December 1962 vol 669 cc407-8
38. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Labour what action he has taken about the provision of alternative work in shipyards.

Mr. Hare

Some shipyards have, with considerable initiative, secured alternative work and have begun, for example, to play a part in industrialised building. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works is giving further consideration to the possibility of developments in this field.

Mr. Willey

While recognising what has been done in some yards, and also the importance, so far as possible, of keeping the labour force attached to the yards, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to make this a particular study and to call in the co-operation of the shipbuilders to see that every effective step is taken and that, if necessary, Government aid is given to this sort of work?

Mr. Hare

As I have just told the hon. Gentleman, the Minister of Public Building and Works is giving further consideration to the whole of this idea.

Mr. J. Howard

With regard to the provision of work in shipyards, may I ask my right hon. Friend what progress has been made towards merging the considerable number of unions engaged in shipbuilding with a view to avoiding disputes and higher costs which arise from lines of demarcation, thus preparing the industry to compete for orders when world demand for new shipping improves?

Mr. Hare

Discussions with both employers and trade unions in the shipbuilding industry are at the moment taking place under the chairmanship of a senior officer of my Ministry. The object of these discussions is perfectly simple—that, on the one side, the employers should give the workers greater security at work and, on the other, that there should be far fewer of these demarcation troubles and disputes which have damaged the competi- tive position of the shipbuilding industry. I sincerely hope that we shall make progress in these talks. At the moment, I have nothing further to say to my hon. Friend than that which I have just told him.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the great and increasing unemployment in the shipyards, not only in north-east England but in north-east Scotland, is an attack upon one of Britain's major traditional industries, and that it demands a really constructive plan for its solution by the Minister? What is his plan?

Mr. Hare

The hon. and learned Gentleman always has a great sense of the dramatic. He knows perfectly well that if he wants a serious answer he should put his question to the Minister responsible for the shipbuilding industry. I hope that we do not take too pessimistic a view of the future of the industry. Admittedly, there is a good deal of shipbuilding capacity surplus to world requirements at the moment. Although this industry may have to contract, I do not believe that it has not a very considerable future.