HC Deb 04 August 1971 vol 822 cc1563-5
10. Mr. Buchan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the men employed in the Upper Clyde shipyards.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I have had a number of such discussions, formal and informal, the most recent being a long meeting in Glasgow yesterday.

Mr. Buchan

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that meeting people in order to sell a brutal policy after it has been decided hardly qualifies for the word "discussions". Has the right hon. Gentleman learned from his meetings yesterday that every section of Scottish opinion is shocked and appalled at the butchery decision which was made, and in saying that I include the Churches, the town council, the trade unions, industry and commerce alike? Will the right hon. Gentleman persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who seems to be making the running here, to rescind his policy and to come up with a sensible policy for the development of the yards along with the workers who are demonstrating for the right to work?

Mr. Campbell

That is not a reflection of the discussions in which I took part yesterday, when there were representatives of all those concerned with this very difficult problem. We had an opportunity of discussing and explaining the advice profferred by the four advisers on shipbuilding in the Upper Clyde, which was issued only last Thursday afternoon. Having debated that in Parliament, my right hon. Friend and I had the opportunity of very long discussions with the different sections concerned, including shop stewards. Some of the shop stewards took the line which the hon. Gentleman described, but others who took part in our discussions were considering and discussing the proposals which had been put forward by the four advisers, who included three leading Scots whose main concern must be the welfare of Scotland and Clydeside.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept or reject any responsibility for maintaining existing employment in U.C.S. until a viable alternative exists?

Mr. Campbell

As I have already said in this House, my objective is to maintain the maximum of employment while reconstructing and rearranging the shipbuilding industry on the Upper Clyde so that it will become a successful industry which can handle orders and compete with the rest of the world.

Mrs. Hart

Will the right hon. Gentleman abandon the defensive complacency of the Government Front Bench and tell us whether he has been at all disturbed in his view of the Tightness of Cabinet decisions by what he has heard and seen in the last week? Is he not now convinced, as Secretary of State for Scotland, that there is a case for asking the Cabinet to reconsider its decision?

Mr. Campbell

Any defensive complacency which I have observed has come from right hon. Members opposite, who were responsible for setting up U.C.S. and who left us with this problem which exploded in the form of a liquidation. We have been discussing proposals that were put forward by the advisory group and which had to be put forward quickly because in Scotland the period of provisional liquidation can last for only a certain time. The Government were guaranteeing wages during that period, and it is our intention, having explained these matters, to do what the Government think should be done, but it requires co-operation by all concerned.

Mr. Buchan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the grossly unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.