HC Deb 21 May 1973 vol 857 cc13-4
14. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement on his discussions with the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom about a scheme of investment incentives of mutual benefit to the shipping and shipbuilding industries.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Cranley Onslow)

There have been no such discussions. The Government have not contemplated reintroducing a general scheme for investment grants for shipowners.

Mr. Willey

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for the clarity, at any rate, of what he said. As we now have the Booz-Allen Report and as there will be a lot of speculation about the future of shipbuilding and investment grants, or other ways of helping shipbuilding, will the hon. Gentleman ensure that discussions are held as early as possible, and that the Government will take a decision as early as possible? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that uncertainty causes a great deal of harm?

Mr. Onslow

I certainly accept that uncertainty can cause harm. The right hon. Gentleman may like to know that we are inviting representatives of the industry, the unions and other interested parties to send to the Department of Trade and Industry written observations on the report and its implications not later than 15th June. Of course, as soon as we get those written observations we shall have any necessary discussions and will then proceed to form conclusions about policy.

Dame Irene Ward

This is an important matter both to shipbuilding and to shipping. I realise that some time must elapse for this very important report to be considered, but will my hon. Friend give an undertaking through the usual channels that he will ensure that there is a full-scale debate, in which those on both sides of the House who are interested in this important issue can give their views, as well as Booz-Allen, the shipbuilders and the shipping people?

Mr. Onslow

I do not know whether I can answer for the usual channels.

Dame Irene Ward

Oh, you can.

Mr. Onslow

I think that I can assure my hon. Friend that a futher statement will be made when consultations are completed. No doubt those who are interested in these matters will take all the steps that seem appropriate to press the need for further debate.

Mr. Mason

It is noticeable that the Booz-Allen Report which has been laid before the Government does not take us any further than the Geddes Report of 1966. That is probably because of the conservatism of employers and trade unions—management and men—in the shipbuilding industry. That makes it inevitable that the industry will have to be publicly owned. Is it right that the hon. Gentleman had no discussion with either the Chamber of Shipping or the federation on the implications of the Booz-Allen Report during the stage when it was being prepared?

Mr. Onslow

I know about the right hon. Gentleman's consuming passion to nationalise everything. However, I think he will agree that as the report has only recently been made available it is reasonable that we should have time to study it before we come to any conclusion.