HC Deb 17 June 1963 vol 679 cc23-4
33. Mr. P. Williams

asked the Minister of Labour how many men are now employed in shipbuilding; how this figure compares with 12 months ago; and what he expects the position to be in six and 12 months' time.

Mr. Whitelaw

In April, 1963, there were 141,700 male employees in shipbuilding and ship-repairing, compared with 162,800 in April, 1962. My right hon. Friend cannot forecast the future level of employment.

Mr. Williams

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Answers to this Question and Question No. 32 indicate a lack of forecasting ability by the Government? In terms of drawing in new industry, surely the Government know the consequences of their own plans and whether they will succeed in them or not?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think I can accept that these figures show any lack of forward planning. My hon. Friend knows perfectly well of the difficulties of the shipbuilding industries throughout the world in which these figures are necessarily contained. Of course, the present difficult position in the shipbuilding industry is the reason why my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport recently announced his scheme for assisting the industry.

Dr. Bray

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last Saturday Lord Hailsham said that he thought that he had too much to do? Is he further aware that his own Ministry has even more to do and that the failure of the Government to do anything at all about the unemployment in the North-East has completely shattered the confidence of everybody in the North-East?

Mr. Whitelaw

I could not accept for one moment that the Government have done nothing about the unemployment position in the North-East. I could give the hon. Gentleman a very considerable catalogue of measures which have been taken, starting with the considerable energies of the Lord President of the Council, which have done a great deal in improving the position in the North-East.

Mr. R. W. Elliott

Is my hon. Friend aware that only those completely politically prejudiced could have listened to the speech of the Lord President of the Council in Newcastle last weekend with anything other than great appreciation of a fine assessment of the area's basic problems and further employment possibilities?

Mr. Shinwell

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that Lord Hailsham has not touched the fringe of the unemployment problem in the North-East? What is the North-East to do now that Lord Hailsham is being sent to Moscow by the Prime Minister?

Mr. Whitelaw

I think the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that it takes time before the impact of measures which are taken has its full effect, and it would be quite absurd to pretend otherwise. I think the right hon. Gentleman knows that the impact of the measures taken by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is having considerable effect throughout the country, in particular, in the North-East. There are also the other substantial measures which have been taken specifically for the North-East.

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