HC Deb 06 February 1963 vol 671 cc419-20
3. Mr. Milne

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what steps the Admiralty will now take to help shipbuilding areas of high unemployment by placing orders within these districts.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

We have just placed orders for three tankers. These orders have been placed with firms in the North-East of England as a result of competitive tenders. Firms in Ulster, Merseyside and the Clyde also tendered. When inviting tenders for these ships, we had intended ordering only two but we have now found it possible to order a third ship.

In addition, we have just invited tenders from firms in all the major shipbuilding areas for the construction of two Fleet replenishment ships. We had intended ordering only one ship this year, but, again, we have now found it possible to order an additional one.

Mr. Milne

The decision to which the hon. Gentleman has referred has given considerable pleasure in the North-East, but will he bear in mind that the North-East is not merely a land of three rivers and that, in addition to the Tyne, the Wear and the Tees, there is also the River Blyth, and we are situated in a development district? Will he keep this in mind when considering future action? Also, may we take it that it will not be a precedent that every time Viscount Hailsham visits the North-East we shall receive orders for ships the day before?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I note what the hon. Gentleman says in the first part of his supplementary question. Unfortunately, most shipbuilding areas are also areas of high unemployment, so it is not just confined to the North-East. On the second point, it was the merit of the shipbuilders in the North-East and their highly competitive tendering which secured this order, on which they should be congratulated.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

While competitive tendering is, perhaps, not always possible, will my hon. Friend agree that, in the main, it is a very good thing in that it leads to efficiency and gives an area of high unemployment an incentive, through its shipyards and their efficiency, to help itself? Will he further agree that the winning of a tender reflects enormous credit, confidence and courage on the shipbuilders of the Tyne in the 10 years in that they have modernised their yards?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I agree. I think that the next challenge to the shipbuilding areas is the opportunity they will have to compete for the orders for the two replenishment ships whose value will be about that of the orders for the tankers.

10. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty when he expects to put out to tender the type of naval contracts referred to in his letter of 27th January, 1963, to the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

In my letter of 27th January I assured the hon. Member that a particular shipbuilding firm in his constituency would continue to be given opportunities to tender for Admiralty work for which its facilities were considered suitable. I regret that I cannot forecast when we shall be inviting such tenders.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that is a very disappointing reply? In view of the fact that earlier this afternoon he said that he has brought forward other ships much sooner than expected, will he not give an assurance that he will consider bringing forward this type of contract this year rather than waiting till next year?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

This particular shipyard is better suited for the small type of ship. I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said when considering our programme.

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