HC Deb 23 June 1971 vol 819 cc1423-4
39. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will pay an official visit to Glasgow and take the opportunity during this visit to tour the shipbuilding yards of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I was in Glasgow last Friday and I saw a deputation from the shipbuilding yards then. On the previous Wednesday I had seen representatives from the areas concerned with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and later in the Scottish Office. On Monday I attended the Prime Minister's meeting with the Scottish Trades Union Congress and I am attending another meeting with representatives of the area tomorrow.

Mr. Lewis

That is all very interesting, but we have read most of that in the Press. What did the ship workers tell the right hon. Gentleman? Did they tell him that they were very pleased with the Government? Did they say that they thought that the Government were implementing their promises, or, like the overwhelming majority of people in this country, did they tell him that this Government ought to do something for the poor, the under-privileged, and now the growing unemployed?

Mr. Campbell

They did not. They discussed constructively the difficult and serious situation facing us on Clydeside. They discussed what could be done by the provisional liquidator, and the present state of liquidation, and how the Government could co-operate with the provisional liquidator for a reconstruction of a healthy shipbuilding industry on Upper Clyde.

Mr. Grimond

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that there is considerable disagreement between the account of events given by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and by Mr. Hepper? Would he either see Mr. Hepper to find out whether statements about cash flow, estimates of profitability, and so on, were made, or, if not, as this must be a matter of serious concern to the Scottish Office, at least press in the Cabinet for some inquiry into the whole history of the matter, from the day when the consortium was first set up?

Mr. Campbell

The right hon. Gentleman will see from my speech in HANSARD a week ago what was in the letter of 3rd May from U.C.S., and other events. I shall not, naturally, repeat all that now.

Mr. Ross

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his reply. He was invited to go to the yards. Will he go to the yards? Will he address the men and be questioned by them—he will be given a ready hearing—and try to persuade them that it was right to put Tory dogma before the jobs of thousands of men?

Mr. Campbell

I shall do, as I am doing, everything that I can to help with this situation, which is most depressing for me as Secretary of State for Scotland.

I am aware that the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) is even now addressing a meeting of men who would be much better employed at their work, because leaving work is causing loss of industrial production in Scotland. As recalled in a letter in the Glasgow Herald yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman was the Minister who ordered the Chairman of the Firth of Clyde Dry Dock to apply for liquidation. Can hypocrisy or cynicism go any further?

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