HC Deb 05 March 1969 vol 779 cc389-91
1. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will now make a further statement on the turbine faults in "Queen Elizabeth 2".

39. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on Sir Arnold Lindley's independent assessment of the Queen Elizabeth 2's turbines prepared for his Department; and if he will publish the report.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

I have now given in a Written Answer on 3rd March the full text of the letter Sir Arnold Lindley sent to me about his investigations. I am glad that the companies concerned were able to accept his assessment.—[Vol. 779, c. 42–5.]

Sir G. Nabarro

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for accepting my suggestion in a recent Parliamentary Question that there should be a full technical inquiry and for laying this so expeditiously before the House, may I ask whether he will apply himself to the consequential losses arising from the six months delay in this ship's sailing? Who pays those losses—John Brown, or Cunard, or the public purse?

Mr. Benn

I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's interest in this, but it really is not for me as a Minister to venture an opinion about the interpretation of the contractual relationships that exist between Cunard, which is, as a shipping company, sponsored by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and the suppliers of the ship. It is not possible to answer that Question.

Mr. Rankin

Will my right hon. Friend note that in paragraph 13 Sir Arnold tells us that there can be no criticism whatever of the work of the men who were engaged on this ship, and does not that confirm all that I have said in this House on previous occasions?

Mr. Benn

I should be happy for hon. Members on both sides of the House to find confirmation in Sir Arnold's report of what they have been saying. It is perfectly true; the workmanship was not at issue here. The trouble was caused by resonance caused by steam excitation, which led to fatigue and ultimately a break.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

We all welcome the report from Sir Arnold, and I congratulate him on the speed with which he has completed it. Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he is now giving further thought to providing test facilities for turbines of this kind? They will not often be required, but at present the ship is the only test bed.

Mr. Benn

The difficulty with steam turbines used in ships is that they are all one-off jobs, unlike aircraft turbines where large numbers are produced. Secondly, in order to have a full-scale testing facility capable of testing under operating conditions it would be necessary to have an enormous power station to feed it. We have, however, accepted with great interest Sir Arnold's recommendation that we should look again at our research and development facilities, and we have for some time been waiting for a proposal on this point.

Mr. Milne

Will my right hon. Friend take note that some £8 million worth of export orders for similar turbines have been obtained this week, and will he regard this as a reflection of the contribution made by Tyneside and Clyde-side? Will he also thank Sir Arnold for his report?

Mr. Benn

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's last comment. Our gratitude is owed to Sir Arnold Lindley for having carried through a difficult mission very expeditiously, and for having drawn attention to the fact that turbine trouble of this kind is not at all uncommon in other countries. What my hon. Friend says about the fresh orders for John Brown Engineering confirms the excellence of that firm in this field.

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