HC Deb 24 June 1968 vol 767 cc16-7
4. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Technology whether he is aware of the waiving by a Norwegian shipping line of a fine of £1,225,000 for which a British shipyard was liable under a penalty clause as a result of a 245-day delay in delivery; and what action he will take to inquire into the reason for this delay and to ensure that similar breaches of contract by British firms do not happen in the future.

Mr. Benn

I am aware of the reasons for the delay in delivery by a British shipyard and that agreement was reached on payments to Norwegian owners as a result of normal commercial negotiations. The reorganisation of the shipbuilding industry now proceeding should improve its competitive position in all respects.

Sir J. Langford-Holt

The Minister says that he is aware of the reasons, but he does not tell the House any of the reasons. The whole nation must try to avoid at all costs this reputation for unpunctuality. Can the Minister give some further explanation of it?

Mr. Benn

This was a particular case which the hon. Gentleman knows about. There was an over optimism about the speed with which modernisation would be carried through in the yard in question. It was a commercial negotiation between the company and the foreign owners. In fact the contract was fulfilled, though a penalty payment had to be made. The delivery position and delivery performance in the industry are now much improved.

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