HC Deb 01 July 1971 vol 820 cc575-6
Q3. Mr. Strang

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to visit Japan before the end of the year.

The Prime Minister

During his recent visit to London the Japanese Foreign Minister kindly invited me to visit his country. I said that I would like to do so, but no specific plans have yet been made.

Mr. Strang

Will the Prime Minister go to Japan at the earliest possible moment and make a close study of the methods whereby successive Governments have carefully nurtured the Japanese shipbuilding industry? When he returns will he go to Clydeside and explain to the workers there how, after years of mismanagement, his Government's lame duck philosophy will enable them to create the kind of shipbuilding industry to which the people of this country are entitled?

The Prime Minister

I was under the impression that the hon. Gentleman had put down a serious Question about visiting Japan. I should very much like to go to Japan. I regret not previously having had the opportunity. However, the hon. Gentleman will recall that many missions have been from this country to Japan to study the shipbuilding industry, from the late 1940s, under the first postwar Labour Government, and subsequently. They came back with recommendations for an increase in technology in shipbuilding, the introduction of modern equipment, shift working, and the abolition of restrictive practices. Those measures could make British shipbuilding today just as efficient as Japanese shipbuilding.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

As one who has visited shipyards in Japan, may I suggest that if my right hon. Friend were to accept that invitation, possibly the group of people he could most constructively take with him to see the Japanese shipyards would be the shop stewards from our own shipyards?

The Prime Minister

With respect to my hon. Friend, many shop stewards in our shipbuilding industry today realise the need for bringing about these changes. When I visited the Lower Clyde and talked to the shop stewards, they were insistent upon these changes being brought about, and they did not wish to be joined with Upper Clyde. It is the Government's intention to bring about a reconstruction on the Upper Clyde to ensure a viable shipbuilding industry which can compete with the rest of the world.