HL Deb 05 February 1981 vol 416 cc1279-80

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking about the future of the Royal Dockyards.

Viscount Long

My Lords, the study into the problems facing the Royal Dockyards which was carried out last year under the chairmanship of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy made recommendations on a framework for the future. Those recommendations are still under consideration.

Baroness Vickers

My Lords, while I thank my noble friend for that reply, may I ask him whether it is not time some action was taken in view of the fact that these recommendations have been in the hands of the Minister for some time and were published in August 1980? I think the dockyards have been neglected, and I raised many of these points in the last defence debate. I hope that, in view of what I have said, my noble friend will see that some action is taken soon. No Government have taken a real interest in the dockyards since 1955.

Viscount Long

My Lords, I know that my noble friend has taken a great interest in the Royal Dockyards for many years, but if I may say so the Consultative Document on the Royal Dockyards is a comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the situation, and its recommendations have far-reaching implications. Subsidiary, in-depth studies have been necessary to prepare the way for final decisions to be taken on the recommendations. Some of the recommendations, which are in Chapter 14 of the Consultative Document, embrace, among other things, the workload of the dockyards, their manpower, their management structure, their methods of accounting and their arrangements for pay and productivity payments. The implications of the recommended changes in all these areas must be considered.

Lord Shinwell

My Lords, may we have an assurance from the noble Viscount that before any fundamental change is brought about both Houses of Parliament will be offered an opportunity to express an opinion—in particular, if any question of disposal of Government assets to private enterprise is under review? Furthermore, will he understand that, whatever may be thought in political circles about the transfer of nationalised assets to private ownership, when it comes to the disposal of Government equipment associated with defence the Government will meet with opposition of such a formidable character that they will not last very long afterwards?

Viscount Long

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, but, if I may say so, that is not what was in the document. What the document contained were suggestions to improve the situation in the Royal Dockyards. If I may go one stage further, there is certainly no doubt that the Royal Navy will continue to need the capacity provided by the four dockyards.

Forward to