HC Deb 25 February 1919 vol 112 cc1624-5W

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller whether he will state the full amount of the expenditure on the national shipyards atChepstow up to the 31st January last, the number of berths that have been completed, the number of keels laid down, and the number that have been launched?

Colonel L. WILSON

The expenditure on the national shipyards to the end of January, including the cost of housing and of acquiring the property of the Standard Shipbuilding Company, but excluding cost of shipbuilding and of stores and plant contracted for but not yet charged to works, amounted to approximately £4,000,000. The charge for militarylabour included in this sum is at present under consideration by the War Office, and may be considerably reduced. Twelve berths have been completed at the national shipyards, six keels have been laid down, but no vessels have yet been launched from those berths.


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller whether, in view of the fact that the national shipyards afford the Government a practical opportunity of furthering national reconstruction on a large scale, he will withdraw the advertisements offering them for sale and carry them on as a national institution, associating the trade unions in its management, and thus setting an example to industry at large?

Colonel L. WILSON

I am glad of this, opportunity of explaining thepolicy of the Government in this matter. The shipyards were built as a war measure. If the Government were now to retain and operate them indefinitely, they would be in competition either with shipowners (if the Government kept the ships) or with shipbuilders (if the Government sold them). The fear of such competition, with all the resources of the public Exchequer behind it, would be bound to create a want of confidence in the ship-owning and shipbuilding industries, which are vital to the prosperity of this country, at the very moment when it is essential that the normal trade and industry of the kingdom should get going again as quickly and on as large a scale as possible. Therefore, it has been decided, after full and careful consideration by theGovernment, not to retain these yards as a Government undertaking, provided, of course, that they can be disposed of on fair and proper terms. It is the intention before disposing of them to complete the three shipyards on a reduced scale, and also to proceed with the housing scheme. I need hardly add that, as already announced, I should welcome any proposal or suggestion which would provide for the participation of labour in the management and profits of the shipyards or for their direct operation by Labour organisations.

Colonel W. THORNE

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Shipping Controller if he is aware that a number of protest meetings have been held at Chepstow and have passed resolutions against the sale of the shipyards in that district; if the same people have protested against the Government giving out contracts for the erection of cottages to contractors on a percentage basis rather than under the direct control and management of local governing bodies; and if he intends taking any action on the question?

Colonel L. WILSON

I have ascertained that a resolution in the terms suggested by my hon. Friend was passed by some of the employés of No. 1 Yard at Chepstow, and that the terms of this resolution were published in the local Press. As regards the question of the disposal of the national shipyards, I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I have just made in reply to the hon. Member for Preston. As regards the second part of the inquiry, the question of the housing arrangements in connection with the national shipyards is at the moment under consideration by the Shipping Controller.