HC Deb 18 March 1968 vol 761 cc24-5
38 and 39. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Minister of Technology (1) what is the intention of the Shipbuilding Industry Board regarding the provision of financial assistance to the Clyde Upper Reaches merger on the basis of each of the five individual establishments of that merger continuing to build ships;

(2) what is the present order position in the Upper Reaches of the Clyde; and what prospects he envisages of further shipbuilding orders being obtained by the new merger in the Upper Reaches.

Mr. Fowler

With my right hon. Friend's approval the Shipbuilding Industry Board has agreed to lend £5½ million to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Limited on the basis that the group's facilities will be deployed in the light of changing market conditions. At the end of last year the group announced that it had £87 million of business on its books and has just announced £10 million in new orders this year.

Mr. Taylor

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that very encouraging news. Can he give a guarantee that he will discuss with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence the importance of seeing that a fair share of naval contracts goes to the Upper Reaches, bearing in mind that the concentration of the Polaris programme on the North-East Coast means a declining share of naval orders for Clydeside?

Mr. Fowler

I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that Barrow and Birkenhead are not in the North-East. But there is no doubt that the Upper Clyde will receive its fair share of naval orders, as it has always done. There is no worry in the naval yard on the Upper Clyde at present.

Mr. Rankin

Will my hon. Friend say a word of thanks to the hon. Gentleman and his friends in Scotland for showing more support to U.C.S. when they are subsidised than they showed to the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company when it set out on its successful path with a subsidy from the Government?

Mr. McMaster

On a point of order. I clearly heard the Minister, when answering that Question, give an undertaking as to the allocation of defence orders. Is that in order when earlier he refused to give any such undertaking?

Mr. Fowler

I gave no undertaking whatsoever. I said, I believe, that I was sure that this would be the case. I have confidence in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.