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Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 27 October 1954

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty how many ships, and of what total tonnage, have been hooked as orders for Tyneside shipyards; and how many were cancelled during the first nine months of 1954.

In the first nine months of 1954, licences to build four ships totalling 28,000 gross tons were issued to Tyneside shipyards and, in the same period, licences for five ships totalling 68,450 gross tons were cancelled.

Does not this reveal a very dangerous position? Is it not time that the Admiralty took a more lively interest in this and gave greater support, particularly to the question of securing orders from other parts of the world, including Russia?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we do take a lively interest in this question. As I have already said, we still have a large number of orders on the order books and I think that it would be a mistake to be unduly alarmed at this stage. We have had cancellations., but we have also got some new orders, many of which are for smaller ships, and this is helping the small yards, whose order books are shortest.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a good deal of anxiety, and that the Admiralty is showing a great deal of complacency in giving the same sort of reply as it has now given over the last year or two? Is it not time to take a much more active line?

I can assure the hon. Member that there is no complacency on our side. We have our Shipbuilding Advisory Committee which we can consult in this matter, and we have conversations with the Shipbuilding Conference.

Is there anything to stop our shipyards from tendering for Russian orders and accepting orders, if their tenders are right, for ships of a cargo nature and vessels other than warships?

There is nothing to stop our ship-builders provided that the ships are within the security limits. In fact one large order has already been obtained.