HC Deb 10 June 1974 vol 874 cc1221-2
26. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the total value of ships exported by British merchant and naval shipbuilders in the most recent annual period for which figures are available; and what were the comparable figures in each of the previous five years.

Mr. Deakins

For 1973 exports of ships and boats, as published in the December 1973 issue of the Overseas Trade Statistics, totalled £123 million; figures for earlier years are published in the appropriate annual Statements of Trade.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Minister agree that these and other recently published figures show that after a major reorganisation, assisted by previous Governments, and improved labour relations, the shipbuilding industry is doing fairly well and providing more secure employment for the men in the yards than ever before? Will the Minister tell his colleagues to let the industry get on with the job instead of going through the upheaval and uncertainty of nationalisation?

Mr. Deakins

One of our objectives in bringing shipbuilding into public ownership will be to make it even more efficient. This will help rather than hinder exports. This is the declared policy on which the Government were elected, and my right hon. Friend is undertaking to go ahead with this. We have no intention of reneging on our election commitments with regard to this issue.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the very disappointing share in the increasing world orders for shipbuilding strengthens the case for a major change in the whole shipbuilding industry?

Mr. Deakins

Yes. The performance of the British shipbuilding industry has not been very good since the Second World War, and other nations have improved their share of world shipbuilding trade to the detriment of our own industry and workpeople. Any reorganisation—by way of nationalisation or otherwise—which can improve it will be to the overall benefit of the British economy and of the British people, and we all want to see that.

Mr. Heseltine

Will the hon. Gentleman explain how many of those countries succeeded in improving their efficiency by nationalising the' shipbuilding industry?

Mr. Deakins

If private enterprise does not work successfully, nationalisation is the only answer. That is the policy cf this Government.