HC Deb 27 June 1962 vol 661 cc1154-5
25. Ridley

asked the Minister of Transport what representations he has made to the Government of Australia over the 33⅓ per cent. subsidy it pays towards the cost of ships built in Australian shipyards for Australian owners, in view of its effect on the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett)

The Australian Government have paid shipbuilding subsidies for a number of years in order that strategically necessary facilities may be maintained, but they are in no doubt about our concern that there should be as much freedom as possible for British shipbuilders to compete effectively in the Australian market.

Mr. Ridley

Is my hon. and gallant Friend aware that before 1958, there were 47 ships ordered by Australia in this country, and that now there are only two very small ships on order? Can he say what sort of Commonwealth preference this is?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

Yes. Sir. I am aware of these figures, but, of course, the present subsidy provisions have been in force for some years, and I see very little prospect of persuading the Australian Government to withdraw them. With one exception, the subsidy has hitherto been confined to ships built in Australia for the Australian coastal trade. The Australians are well aware of our concern lest it should be extended generally to ocean-going vessels.

Lady Tweedsmuir

In view of the fact that it is proposed shortly to put an Order before Parliament whereby our own subsidies will be payable for ships built in foreign yards, what representations have been made to the Australian Government that these subsidies should be available outside Australia, and particularly in this country, in order to help our own shipbuilding industry?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

With great respect to my hon. Friend, the two cases are not parallel at all.

Mr. Shinwell

Why do hon. Members opposite object to the Australian and Canadian Governments subsidising shipbuilding when the majority of them were prepared to subsidise the Cunard Line to the extent of £3.¾ million?

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

There, again, I cannot agree that these are parallel cases.