HC Deb 30 March 1965 vol 709 cc1370-1
5. Mr. Woodnutt

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations if he will now state the trading figures of Bailey (Malta) Limited, from the date the Council of Administration took over the Dockyard in February, 1963, to date, or for any part of that period.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I regret I am not able to give the figures.

Mr. Woodnutt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, at an arbitration tribunal in Malta on 19th January which settled a dispute between the General Workers' Union and the managing agents, full figures of the losses on the dates I am asking about were given? In these circumstances, why is the hon. Gentleman unable to give the figures to me? I have asked for them twice. As the Council of Administration is responsible for the legal costs of Bailey's, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the British taxpayer will be paying the full costs of the Government and of Bailey's in this protracted legislation?

Mr. Hughes

The main preoccupation of the Government is to protect the British taxpayer in this matter, as the hon. Gentleman will know, particularly if he has studied the inquiry of the Public Accounts Committee. I explained the position to him fully in a letter I wrote to him on 23rd February, and perhaps I may briefly repeat what I said then. The Council has not been able to produce audited accounts for 1963–64 owing to the circumstances in which it took over the yard in 1963, the difficulties it had in getting books and papers of the company; and the items in dispute with Baileys Ltd. in the intercompany account.

Mr. H. Hynd

Are not these legal proceedings continuing far too long and piling up heavy costs which eventually will have to be borne by the British taxpayer?

Mr. Hughes

My right hon. Friend has agreed that an attempt should be made to reach a settlement.

Mr. Sandys

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Council of Administration has done a splendid job and has put the dockyard on to a good footing?

Mr. Hughes

That is perfectly correct.

Mr. Woodnutt

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am aware of his letter to me, but that I was asking what the figures of losses are? They have been given to the Tribunal in Malta. Why cannot he supply them to us in this House? Who will bear Bailey's costs in the litigation? I believe that it will be the British taxpayer.

Mr. Hughes

I have told the hon. Gentleman that the accounts are not to hand and I prefer to wait for them.

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