HC Deb 22 February 1980 vol 979 cc373-4W
Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether the Natural Environmental Research Council has placed an order for a conversion of a trawler to a research vessel with a Belgium shipyard; if so, if he will state the criteria in placing this order in Belgium against competitor British shipyards; and if he is satisfied that the tender prices were competitively comparable within EEC rules and that no special credit terms were offered.

Mr. Macfarlane

The council placed an order with a Belgian shipyard for the conversion of a 132ft-long French trawler, with a gross tonnage of 339, to enable it to be used as a research vessel primarily by the Marine Biological Association. This ship is to replace a 27year-old ship which is approching the end of its useful life. In addition to the Belgian firm, 11 British and five other European firms were invited to tender. Of the four British tenders received, all were, regrettably, substantially higher than the Belgian one, which was for £1.53 million. This was the deciding factor. The council, in assessing tenders, which are satisfactory and comparable in all respects other than price, always accepts the lowest. I understand that Belgium does not operate a subsidy scheme for its shipyards. The council neither sought nor was offered special credit terms.