HC Deb 04 March 1965 vol 707 cc1505-7
12. Mr. McMaster

asked the President of the Board of Trade what steps he intends to take to assist British shipbuilding yards to meet unfair overseas competition.

51. Mr. Bence

asked the President of the Board of Trade what new steps he will take to help British shipbuilders to meet unfair foreign competition.

The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Roy Mason)

I am not sure what is meant by the reference to unfair competition. We have no evidence that our main competitors receive subsidies directly affecting shipbuilding costs. Orders and inquiries have been encouraging since the Government recently announced new export credit facilities.

Mr. McMaster

Will the hon. Gentleman look into such matters as the cost of raw materials, particularly steel and power, and make sure that British shipbuilders are not penalised by having to pay unnecessarily high prices for their steel and power in order to bolster up our coal mining industry or, if they are, that they are recompensed?

Mr. Mason

No doubt the hon. Member is aware that this will be one of the matters under examination by the Committee of Inquiry.

Mr. Bence

Will my hon. Friend consult his right hon. Friend to ascertain how it is that the British industry cannot supply steel competitively to the shipbuilding industry in this country in the same way in which the German and Japanese steel industries supply their shipbuilding industries?

Mr. Mason

My hon. Friend ought to be aware that in Japan they have flexible steel pricing and that a group of five yards, equivalent in output to the whole British shipbuilding industry, can bargain with the steel industry and get cheaper steel plates.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Is it not a fact that although it may be difficult to establish that such unfair competition exists, in fact it does exist and that, for example, there are low-interest loans operating in some countries to the advantage of our foreign competitors?

Mr. Mason

I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will not wish to continue to hide behind the phrase, "It undoubtedly exists". We have no direct evidence that shipbuilding abroad in our main competitiors, West Germany, Sweden and Japan, receives direct subsidies.

13. Mr. McMaster

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will review the credit terms available to British and foreign shipowners placing orders in British shipbuilding yards.

Mr. Jay

I would refer to the Answer I gave on 25th February to the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) and other hon. Members.

Mr. McMaster

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has not dealt specifically with the point of British shipowners ordering on the same terms as foreign shipowners? Is he aware that a British shipowner can sometimes get better credit terms by ordering abroad than by ordering in Britain? Will he look into this point and make sure that British shipowners are treated in the same way as foreign shipowners when they order ships from Britain?

Mr. Jay

I think that the hon. Member knows that since the improved export credit facilities were announced a month ago, orders for British ships by foreign shipowners have greatly increased. British shipowners can avail themselves of the investment allowances, which are not available to foreign shipowners.