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Germany (Shipbuilding And Engineering)

Volume 465: debated on Monday 30 May 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps are being taken in Germany to stop firms engaged in shipbuilding and engineering from underselling their British counterparts in the world's markets.

As it has been made plain on a number of previous occasions, His Majesty's Government as an occupying Power have no cause for complaint if German exporters are able to compete with British and other exporters on an equal footing, provided that no unfair practices are indulged in. As regards shipbuilding and engineering, my information is that no cases of reported unfair trade practices have been substantiated. The indications are that costs of production in German shipyards are in general no lower than those of British shipyards.

But is not my right hon. Friend aware that the number of workers in these industries who are enrolled in trade unions is comparatively small and, because that is so, they are open to exploitation as cheap labour, and that that is what is going on to quite a considerable extent?

If my hon. Friend has any information I shall be most glad to have it investigated, but I must reiterate that the few cases which have been brought to our notice have not borne that interpretation when examined.

Can the right hon. Gentleman inform the House to what extent the Germans are being permitted to indulge in shipbuilding?

Under the occupation conditions the Germans are not permitted, except with permission, to build for ocean-going use. I understand, however, that for export purposes they are building some inland waterways craft at present.

As the Control Commission staff is reduced, in conformity with general policy, will a nucleus be left behind sufficient to ensure that the Germans do not go in for secret or open subsidy in shipbuilding?