§ Mr. Giles Shaw
The long-term objective is to return as many of British Shipbuilders' yards as possible to the private sector when circumstances permit.
§ Mr. Shaw
I am aware that rumours have been circulated to that effect, but I cannot comment upon them now because I do not have the up-to-date information. My information was that negotiations on the Cuban order had still some considerable way to go. My hon. Friend will know why it was that British Shipbuilders decided that it saw no further need for the capacity of Smiths Dock. That is why it deemed it right to dispose of it and to sell the assets that it contained.
§ Mr. Gordon Brown
Will the Minister accept that so far the privatisation of the shipbuilding industry has meant job losses in the privatised sector and has threatened the viability of the public sector? Will the Minister face his responsibilities to an industry which has gained less than 1 per cent. of world orders this year? In the negotiations over the European intervention fund, will he stand up for 954 a better deal from the fund than the one that is foreshadowed in the draft directive which the Government seem prepared to accept?
§ Mr. Shaw
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall fight extremely hard in the negotiations over the European intervention fund, which I believe to be a crucial component for United Kingdom shipbuilding. I think that the hon. Gentleman should be careful before he suggests that the industry's problems can be solved by shipbuilding remaining in the public sector. He knows well that a number of significant orders have come to sectors that have been privatised. I trust that he welcomes the announcement made today that the Atlantic Conveyor will be stretched at the Scott Lithgow yard.
§ Mr. Speaker
Does the hon. Gentleman's point of order arise directly from questions and not amount to a continuation of questions?
§ Dr. Godman
I wish to raise a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which refers specifically to the last answer given by the Minister of State to my hon. Friend the Member for—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That matter could come into the category of a continuation of Question Time. I do not think that I can take it because, as the hon. Member said, it refers to an answer given by the Front Bench, which patently cannot be a matter for me.