HC Deb 06 February 1963 vol 671 cc427-30
9. Sir P. Agnew

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty why the arrangements under which Admiralty vessels are sent to Bailey's, Malta, for repair in the dockyard have been stopped.

15. Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty why certain Admiralty work included in a programme covering the period to June, 1963, and notified to Bailey (Malta) Limited on 14th December, 1962, has been withdrawn at short notice and without any reason having been given to Bailey (Malta) Limited.

23. Mr. Brockway

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what orders have been withdrawn for refitting and slipping naval vessels at the Malta dockyard of Bailey (Malta) Limited.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

No existing contracts have been cancelled. This in-

he saying that the only people discharged in future will be unestablished staff?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Mainly, yes.

Following are the details:

terruption in the placing of new work has been necessitated by difficulties which have arisen over the operation of the Malta Dockyard, about which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary will be making a full statement to the House during the next few days.

Sir P. Agnew

Is my hon. Friend aware that, by taking the action which he has taken of seeking to strangle the source of supply of work into Bailey's dockyard in Malta, he has struck a very severe blow against the continuity of employment there which has been kept by the successor firm, Bailey (Malta) Ltd., at between 5,000 and 6,000 men ever since it took it over four years ago when the Admiralty felt that it was unable to continue to operate it?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I concede some of what my hon. Friend says in his supplementary question, but, to put it in perspective, Bailey's has undertaken in recent years over£3 million worth of naval work each year. In this instance, the interruption concerns only one or two small ships, so that the difference to the naval repair load will not be marked.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Would my hon. Friend agree that the Colonial Office is so intent on pursuing this undignified and spiteful campaign with Bailey (Malta) Ltd. that the welfare of the people of Malta is now entirely a secondary consideration with it? Will my hon. Friend ask his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary whether the normal working arrangements between the Admiralty and Bailey (Malta) Ltd. can be resumed forthwith?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I cannot accept the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question. My right hon. Friend certainly puts first and foremost the welfare of the people of Malta. I will certainly draw his attention to the second part of the supplementary question.

Mr. Brockway

Without wishing to make any comment about Messrs. Bailey, may I ask whether the Admiralty would rot agree that it owes an extraordinary debt of gratitude to the people of Malta for their stand during the last war? Does he not recall President Eisenhower saying that their resistance had meant that the war had ended three months earlier than it would otherwise have done? In view of that debt to the Maltese people, will the Civil Lord take into account the unemployment which will be caused among those people, and suggest to his colleagues that there should be the alternative of a trading estate upon that island and of the use of that manificent frontage, now exclusively used by the military, for the development of tourism? Malta could become a new Nice if that were done.

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I agree that not only the Admiralty but the nation owes a debt to the island for its contribution in the last war. On the second part of that supplementary, I will certainly report the hon. Gentleman's viewpoint to my right hon. Friend. Perhaps the House will await the statement in a few days.

Mr. Healey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is very deep concern on both sides of the House at the certain consequences of social and economic disturbances in the life of Malta by the cancellation of these contracts? Is he further aware that we find it difficult to understand why the cancellation should have taken place in advance of any longterm decision on the future of the base? Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it is true, as has been reported, that the Government are encouraging the Government of Malta to nationalise these facilities, and if so, what financial assistance do they propose to give the Maltese Government in such a case?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I must underline the point that I made, that this is not a cancellation. It is an interruption and affects only a very small part—one or two small ships—of the total naval load. On the second point, I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to what the hon. Gentleman has said. Perhaps he will await the statement.

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