HC Deb 21 May 1969 vol 784 cc421-2
26. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Technology how much public money has now been given, lent and promised to British shipyards in total.

Mr. Fowler

The Shipbuilding Industry Board has made or promised grants totalling over £9,300,000 to United Kingdom shipbuilders as well as loans of over £14 million. It has also promised grants in relief of interest on these loans. In addition, the Government have certain shares and loan stock of which I gave details in reply to the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) a moment or two ago.

Mr. Ridley

So the Government have now invested some £25 million more in industry. Before further money is invested, will the Government undertake to lay before the House a prospectus showing to what purpose the money is put and the rate of return that it is expected to earn upon it, so that the House may approve the investments made in its name before they are made?

Mr. Fowler

No, Sir. The House has approved the Shipbuilding Industry Act, 1967, the Industrial Expansion Act and the Shipbuilding Industry Act of this year. There was no dispute between the two sides of the House about the Shipbuilding Industry Acts. I cannot undertake to do what was not prescribed in those Acts. This is an industry of which every product is either an export or is import-saving, and I will not see it sold down the river, as some hon. Members would wish.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Conservative Government provided credits for the shipbuilding industry in the North-East and elsewhere, and that the money that has been granted and lent by this Government is far better spent than was the money, amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, spent by previous Conservative Governments on the research and development and production of aircraft which never flew?

Mr. Fowler

I am well aware of the provisions made by the previous Government to help the shipbuilding industry. In the first place, they were inadequate, and, in the second place, there was no precondition of any reorganisation in the industry in order to enable it to compete in the future in world markets. We are determined that that reorganisation will take place, and that we shall have a competitive shipbuilding industry.