HC Deb 30 January 1963 vol 670 cc931-2
35. Mr. Rankin

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty if he will make a statement on his programme of Fleet replacements, in view of its importance to the British shipbuilding industry.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

There are at the moment on order for the Navy from private yards: two assault ships; five G.M. destroyers; fifteen frigates; three nuclear submarines; five conventional submarines; one tanker; together with a miscellany of smaller craft. The replacement programme is, of course, a continuing one and further orders, including those for Polaris submarines, will be announced from time to time in the coming months which will help the shipbuilding industry in its present difficulties.

Mr. Rankin

I welcome that statement so far as it goes, although I myself would rather see ships of peace being built than ships of war. When he comes to deal with the details of the programme, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we must keep the skill of the men engaged and also the employment of the squads in the yards because of the necessity to maintain the industry? Will he remember, too, that on Clydeside we are in a particularly distressful position and think kindly of us when placing orders for the requirements for the new ships?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

The total value of these orders for the shipbuilding industry is £185 million. The value of orders to Clydeside at the moment is about £48 million, so Clydeside is not doing too badly.

Mr. G. R. Howard

I welcome the Answer which my hon. Friend has given, but can he tell us that there will be no diminution in this programme as a result of the Polaris programme?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

It is rather early for me to give any categorical statement on that issue.

Mr. Slater

Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House what areas are to receive these contracts which can be let through his Department? Where does Tees-side, the Wear and so on come into the picture?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I could not predict what areas will win these contracts, but everyone capable of building the ships we need will have the chance.

Mr. P. Williams

Does my hon. Friend recall that, at the moment, there are contracts to go out for three Royal Fleet Auxiliaries? Does he agree that the important thing is that decisions should be arrived at on these contracts as early as possible so that, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) emphasised, the teams in the shipyards are not broken up?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I hope that we shall be able to announce where the contracts have been won within the next few days.