HC Deb 28 June 1976 vol 914 cc15-7
13. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what plans he has to meet the management and employees of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, following their latest representations in favour of remaining in private ownership.

Mr. Varley

Arrangements are in hand for a ministerial meeting with Bristol Channel Ship Repairers to discuss the company's interest in the Greenwell Ship-repair Yard. This meeting will not, however, deal with the Government's public ownership proposals.

Mr. Dykes

That is precisely the point. Can the right hon. Gentleman now say, slowly and carefully, why he and his predecessor have been so unsure of their opinion that they have refused 18 times to receive this company to discuss specifically the case against public ownership?

Mr. Varley

I deny that the company has not been seen. In March last year my noble Friend had separate meetings with the management and the work force of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, and all the company's many letters and other communications have been dealt with fully and courteously.

Mr. Cryer

Does my right hon. Friend have an estimate of the amount of money spent by International Youth Services on the promotion of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers? Can he say whether that service is an accredited news agency, or just a front for Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, prepared to spend huge amounts of money on putting its case in various ways? Does my right hon. Friend agree that this sort of activity should be registered so that we know precisely from where the lobbying is coming?

Mr. Varley

I cannot answer in any detail the considerable question raised by my hon. Friend, but somebody ought to do some research into the subject.

Mr. Wigley

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he regards Bristol Channel Ship Repairers as one of the commanding heights of the economy, or whether the proposals to nationalise this company are a vindictive reaction to the advertising campaign? Can he confirm that there will be a retention of at least the same number of jobs in Wales when this company is nationalised, or an increase?

Mr. Varley

There are no plans to close Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, or anything like that. I refute the suggestion that this is some kind of vindictive campaign. Our proposals were made clear during the middle of 1974. There have been consultations with the company. I agree that it is not the largest ship repairing company in the country, but it is not the smallest either.

Mr. Heffer

I should like to underline my right hon. Friend's comment. This company was included in the list of ship repairing companies to be taken over long before it spent one halfpenny. Is it not scandalous that the company should have lobbied hon. Members at considerable cost and spent enormous sums to subvert hon. Members away from the basic political purpose of Bill?

Mr. Varley

I have heard rumours about the activities and public relations activities of Bristol Channel Ship Repairers, but I have no personal knowledge of them. All I can say on behalf of the Government is that the management and the workers of the company were seen by my noble Friend and that every communication addressed by the company to my Department has been answered in detail.