HC Deb 11 November 1971 vol 825 cc1227-9

The following Written Question stood upon the Order Paper for answer:

Dame Irene Ward

to ask the Minister of State for Defence whether he is now in a position to give details of the recently announced accelerated naval construction programme.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Ian Gilmour)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will now answer written Question No. 31.

We shall be placing contracts in the course of the next few days for the construction of four Type 21 frigates by Yarrow's on the Upper Clyde, of two Type 42 destroyers and two small fleet tankers by Swan Hunter on Tyneside, for the design and construction of two fleet replenishment ships and of a research vessel by Scott's on the Lower Clyde, and for a survey ship and two salvage vessels by Robb Caledon, largely at Leith. A number of other orders for small auxiliary craft will also be placed before long.

These orders will provide significant employment in shipbuilding firms in the development areas. During the next year they should create or preserve over 4,000 jobs for workers directly employed on our orders. Indirect employment in the shipyards will also be increased and, moreover, about the same number of jobs will be provided in sub-contracting firms throughout the country.

Dame Irene Ward

I thank my hon. Friend for that good news and for the speed with which the programme has been designed. What will be the likely starting date, and will he also bear in mind that the more naval ships we can have the better I shall be pleased?

Mr. Gilmour

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and share her views. Work will begin in all cases immediately. although at Scott's some preliminary design work will be necessary first.

Mr. Dell

Could the Minister say whether Cammell Laird tendered for any of these orders and, if so, why no orders have been allocated to that yard in view of the high unemployment on Merseyside?

Mr. Gilmour

The answer is simple. Cammell Laird has no additional capacity at present. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that in the summer we placed two orders for Type 42 destroyers with Cammell Laird, and they are managing to lay the first one only in February and the next one in October of next year.

Mr. Woodnutt

Could my hon. Friend say whether in these four cases the lowest tender was accepted?

Mr. Gilmour

No. As my hon. Friend knows, this was an exercise not only to help the Navy but also to help employment. It was therefore confined to development areas and intermediate areas.

Mr. Small

I thank the Minister for his reply, and certainly Yarrow and my constituency will greatly welcome it. Can he say whether the labour force at Yarrow will be increased arising out of the contract?

Mr. Gilmour

The order placed with Yarrow will have the effect of either creating or preserving something like 1,000 jobs.

Mr. James Hill

Can my hon. Friend assure me that all the orders will not go completely to the development areas, since we have shipyards in the south which require work of this type?

Mr. Gilmour

I am well aware of that but, as I have said, this was a special exercise to help not only the Navy but employment.

Mr. Urwin

The hon. Gentleman referred to the preservation or creation of 4,000 jobs in the industry. Can he be more specific and say how many new jobs are estimated to be created in the northern region following the announcement? Whatever the number, does he not think this will be but a drop in the ocean compared with overall requirements in the northern region?

Mr. Gilmour

The work at Swan Hunter will have the effect of occupying 1,400 men directly as well as involving all the side effects this work will have. In the circumstances, the hon. Gentleman's final comment was not very generous.