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Volume 641: debated on Sunday 7 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Transport what action he proposes to take arising out of the Report of the Sub-Committee on Prospects in the Shipbuilding Industry and the Report on Research and Development Requirements in the Industry made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.


asked the Minister of Transport what action he has taken about the Report of the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee.

Most of the recommendations in the Report of the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee are addressed to the industry, and I will keep in touch with the industry about their implementation.

The further improvements in the services of the Export Credits Guarantee Department announced by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in April are relevant to the recommendation about credit facilities. I am considering the other two recommendations addressed to the Government, which relate to possible scrapping schemes and to orders for Government ships.

My Department and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are pursuing the studies recommended in the latter's Report.

Does the Minister not agree that both these Reports were compromise documents, not objective studies? Is he aware of the facts behind the Reports, on which they were based? Particularly, is he aware of the very severe criticisms made of the marine engineering industry in the Report by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research? What action does he propose to take to make improvements in that industry?

I am aware that to some extent they are bound to be compromise documents with all the interests on the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee, but we are holding discussions with both shipping and shipbuilding interests and the D.S.I.R. on the question of research, which I think most important.

One again, will the right hon. Gentleman try to face taking decisions on these matters? Now that he is scrapping a large section of his legislative programme, will he give more time to these urgent problems of British shipping and shipbuilding?

The question of a decision in this case does not rest with the Minister alone. For example, one of the recommendations of the General Council of British Shipping is that more research should be done. Therefore, I asked it for a list of the research it had in mind. So far I have not received a list. When it comes it will be studied straight away.

Can the Minister say in particular what is likely to be the future of P.A.M.E.T.R.A.D.A., which has been criticised as an organisation which is more likely to restrict than to promote new ideas?

I cannot say what the outcome will be, but that is one of the things being considered by both sides.

When my right hon. Friend talks about scrapping shipping, will he be careful not to engage in a policy which will lead to a decline in the gross tonnage of the British Mercantile Fleet?

That is one of the things which the shipbuilding employers have asked me to discuss with them and I am discussing it with them.

Will the Minister look back over his record and that of his predecessor in this matter and realise that it is some years since the Government promised to give precedence to consideration of this problem, which affects not only the prestige of Britain but also employment in Britain's shipyards? Will he say why the Government are dragging their feet? Is it the scientists or the Government who are dragging their feet in this matter?