HC Deb 05 February 1968 vol 758 cc26-7
45. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the order position in the Upper Clyde shipyards.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

The estimated value of orders for new ships on hand with Upper Clyde yards at the end of 1967 was £86 million.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Minister agree that the prosperity of the lower reaches is not being shared with the upper reaches and that there is a serious position and redundancy? Can he assure us that the new merger will not be allowed to founder by making sure, if necessary, that sufficient naval orders are available?

Mr. Benn

I am in continual contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence concerning naval orders. The order position is disappointing and I know that there is anxiety, but the Upper Clyde group is now well advanced and we hope that devaluation will help the position.

Mr. Small

Can my right hon. Friend state what proportion of orders have been placed on the Clyde by British ship-owners within the total of £86 million?

Mr. Benn

Not accurately without notice.

Mr. Shinwell

What my right hon. Friend has said about orders being disappointing is an understatement of the position. Is he aware that it is reported that the Russians have placed an order for 50 vessels in Japan? Is any attempt being made by the shipbuilders, backed by the Government, to obtain orders from the Soviet Union?

Mr. Benn

The possibility of orders for ships from the Soviet Union was discussed and is very much in mind. If my right hon. Friend asks whether anything has been done, of course the major effort is in reorganisation and as this works its way through, with the advantages of devaluation, we very much hope that the position will improve.