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Ship Repairs (Foreign Yards)

Volume 462: debated on Monday 14 March 1949

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70.

asked the Minister of Transport to what extent is a limitation imposed on the amount of money that can be spent by foreign ship-owners on repairs to their ships in their country; and to what extent the same limitation applies to British vessels being repaired in foreign yards.

I am not aware of any such limitation, and there is, in fact, a continuous volume of foreign tonnage under repair in British yards. As to the repair of British ships abroad, apart from voyage and running repairs, foreign currency is only made available where repair facilities are not promptly available in this country.

Am I to understand from the Minister that repairs to foreign ships, other than emergency repairs, can be done in this country?

71.

asked the Minister of Transport the number of British vessels now being repaired in Continental ship-repairing yards; and how many yards in this country are now idle waiting for ships.

Apart from ships undergoing voyage or running repairs concurrently with loading or discharging at Continental ports, three British ships are now being repaired in Continental yards with my approval. The second part of the Question should be addressed to the Admiralty.

Were the repairs to these ships done in competition with the ship-repairing yards in this country? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the ship-repairing yards on the Continent have an undue advantage over our yards, owing to the subsidies given by foreign Governments?

The second part of the Question is a matter for the Admiralty, as my hon. Friend will be aware. The question of competition does not arise in this case. This question has to be determined by myself, and I have to take into account what repair facilities are available in this country and delays to a ship on its voyage.

Can my right hon. Friend say why he gives authority for British ships to be repaired in foreign ports when there is already redundancy in ship-yards, particularly in Jarrow, where there are adequate facilities for doing the work?

I must point out that we are still very short of tonnage and that the time factor is involved. The question of delay is the sole factor as to whether a ship shall be repaired in this country or abroad.

Is the Minister not aware that this is becoming a very serious problem, particularly on the Merseyside, where there is no longer redundancy but serious unemployment? Will he take steps to deal with that situation?

I do not agree that this is an urgent or substantial matter, because only three ships are concerned and there is a far larger foreign tonnage being repaired in British yards.

Is my right hon. Friend not aware that there is considerable redundancy in the Port of London and that the London district committee of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has been making representations about this matter? In the light of that, can he say why approval is given for British ships to be repaired abroad?

Is the Minister aware that already there is a deputation in the Lobby from redundant workers in the shipyards at Liverpool?

I can only repeat that there is a very limited amount of shipping involved. The question is determined by the time factor in regard to the use of the ship and whether there are facilities in this country to do repairs at the time.