asked the First Lord of the Admiralty what steps he is taking to increase the steel allocation to the shipbuilding industry, and to ensure a balanced production of dry cargo vessels and tankers.
It is not possible to increase steel allocations to shipbuilders until improved steel supplies become available. My right hon. Friend has no power to influence the proportion of tankers and dry cargo vessels ordered by shipowners.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is growing under-employment in the shipbuilding industry due to the inadequacy of the steel allocation and that there is great danger of future unemployment? Will he take steps immediately to remedy the situation because, with rising costs, something will have to be done in respect of the proportion of dry cargo vessels to tankers? Will he take powers to allocate extra steel for that purpose, because, in view of the policy of Her Majesty's Government of reducing stocks in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Will the hon. Gentleman increase the allocation of steel for merchant vessels because of the fact that while there is a policy of reducing stocks the merchant vessels which would be essential in an emergency are not being built?
My information is that under-employment due to steel allocations is negligible. If steel becomes available we shall, of course, take the earliest opportunity to look again at the allocation to the shipbuilding industry and give it as generous treatment as possible.