HC Deb 27 April 1970 vol 800 cc854-6
11. Mr. Ridley

asked the Minister of Technology what has been for each year since 1958 the percentage of total world merchant shipbuilding orders obtained by United Kingdom yards.

24. Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

asked the Minister of Technology why the average percentage of world orders obtained by United Kingdom shipyards fell from 10.4 in the years 1960 to 1964 to 7.2 in the years 1965 to 1969; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Ernest A. Davies

I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table showing the United Kingdom share of world orders in terms of gross tonnage. The percentages quoted in Question No. 24 arise as follows.

Over the period 1960–64 world orders averaged 9.5 million tons gross per annum, of which United Kingdom yards secured orders averaging 1 million tons gross per annum, whereas over the five year period 1965–69 the corresponding figures were 22.7 million tons gross per annum and 1.64 million tons gross per annum respectively These figures show an increase of more than 50 per cent. in the volume of orders secured by the United Kingdom yards over the two periods.

Mr. Ridley

Is the Minister aware that our percentage share of world orders was 11 per cent. in the last five Tory years but has fallen to 8 per cent. in the five years that this Government have been pouring money into the industry? Can the Minister say why we are not getting a better return for the great investment that we are making in this industry?

Dr. Davies

First, the hon. Gentleman should get his percentage figures in agreement with those of his hon. Friend. The basic answer is that in the last year when the party opposite was in office British yards secured only 0.95 million tons gross of orders compared with 2.07 million tons in the last year of the present period. That is a sufficient answer.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Does the Minister attribute the decline in the British share to the fact that our competitors subsidise shipbuilding more than we do? If not, what other reasons can the Minister give?

Dr. Davies

United Kingdom shipyards have benefited greatly from the measures, put into effect by this Government under the Shipbuilding Industry Act 1967, as a result of which the industry has been able to double its orders as compared with the position when the party opposite was in office.

Mr. Lawson

Can my hon. Friend tell the House whether it is not a fact that many of our shipbuilding companies did not even know the cost of the ships for which they were tendering? What will he do now to give them some education about the way in which to run their own businesses?

Dr. Davies

The Shipbuilding Industry Board is available under the Shipbuilding Industry Act, 1967 to help the shipbuilding industry. It has taken considerable measures to that end. There have been some suspicions of the inability of some companies to follow their busi- nesses—in the way referred to by my hon. Friend—but we hope that this situation has now been remedied.

Sir K. Joseph

We take not one scrap of pleasure about the troubles afflicting some shipyards at the moment, but will the Minister answer the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), namely, that in a time of world boom, after devaluation, there has been a sharp fall in the proportion of world shipbuilding orders received by our shipbuilding industry, despite the Government's new subsidy? What is the Government's explanation?

Dr. Davies

I have already given the reason why the percentage has fallen. Hon. Members opposite and the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken cannot wrap up the success that has been achieved over the last five years by hiding the facts behind percentages. The plain fact is that the United Kingdom industry has now doubled its orders as compared with the period when the party opposite was in office.

Following is the information:

The United Kingdom's share of net new world orders in gross tonnage is as follows. Figures are not available for 1958–59.

United Kingdom as percentage of World
Year United Kingdom (Million gross tons) World (Million gross tons)
1960 10.6 1.04 9.8
1961 8.7 0.80 9.5
1962 16.9 0.79 4.7
1963 10.7 1.35 12.6
1964 8.6 0.95 11.1
1965 11.2 2.05 18.3
1966 2.2 0.40 18.3
1967 5.5 1.19 21.8
1968 9.8 2.49 25.4
1969 7.0 2.07 29.5