HC Deb 03 April 1968 vol 762 cc367-9
The Minister of State for Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. George Thomas)

My noble Friend, the Lord Privy Seal, in another place is today making the following interim statement.

"I wish to acquaint the House with the present position in relation to the talks with the Prime Minister of Malta, about the Malta Dockyard, which were concluded last Sunday.

These talks were essentially concerned with the financial help which the Malta Government sought in respect of certain proposals which Dr. Borg Olivier will be making to the Malta Parliament in the next few days. These proposals will have the effect of ensuring the continued operation of the Dockyard and will enable it to be developed for the benefit of the Maltese people and for all who work in the Dockyard. This is of the utmost importance for Malta and, I believe, for relations between our two countries.

The House will understand that until the proposals of the Malta Government have been made public it is not possible for me to make any detailed statement on this subject. I thought it right, however, to inform Parliament that the talks last week about the contribution which the British Government could make to a settlement of this problem were entirely successful. I hope to be able to give the House the details in a further statement before the Easter Recess."

I am sure I am speaking for all in this House in congratulating my noble Friend on the successful outcome of his talks with the Government of Malta about this difficult problem.

Mr. Maudling

I am sure that everyone is glad to hear of the progress being made on this extremely difficult problem. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we look forward to hearing more details next week of the progress made?

Mr. George Thomas

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the hon. Gentleman likewise aware that any help which this country can give to the people of Malta to maintain its economy is something which we as a nation will gladly give? Without going into details, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the arrangement will mean that the full employment of the people of Malta will be guaranteed?

Mr. George Thomas

On the first part of the question, both sides of the House have proved on more than one occasion that they are aware of the importance of helping Malta. Secondly, I would not like to go further than I have in my statement, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the full details will be made available to the House, or at least I earnestly hope so, before the Easter Recess.

Dr. John Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that in reaching a successful conclusion to these important negotiations consideration has been given to the interests of ship repair yards in this country, and particularly to those in the development areas where unemployment rates are very high?

Mr. George Thomas

All relevant interests were taken into account.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

Does this mean that it is hoped to avoid serious redundancy in the dockyard, pending the reopening of the Suez Canal? Is it also intended to give help to general engineering projects in the dockyard pending the reopening of the Canal?

Mr. George Thomas

It is hoped that the steps taken will help the dockyard to have a prosperous future.

Mr. Wall

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's general statement, but can he confirm that special facilities are being retained in the yard for Her Majesty's ships of the Royal Navy?

Mr. George Thomas

I could not comment on that at this stage.