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Royal Navy

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

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Shipbuilding And Ship-Repairing (Orders)

13.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what proportion of orders by his Department for shipbuilding and ship-repairing, in tonnage and value, have been allocated to Scottish and English shipyards, and in particular to Aberdeen, during the last six months.

Orders for naval new construction during the past six months have been for three new frigates, one submarine, two replenishment-at-sea tankers, two seaward defence boats and various small craft. Roughly 18 per cent. of the orders in tonnage and 36 per cent. in value were placed with Scottish firms. A similar proportion of the ship-repair work, by value, outside the Royal Dockyards, went to Scotland. All the orders were placed as a result of competitive tendering and I regret that none were won by Aberdeen firms.

I thank the Minister for that Answer and regret its last sentence. Is he yet in a position to say who won the tender for the new research ship for the National Institute of Oceanography? In that connection, will he bear in mind that Aberdeen shipyards have built many research ships with great success?

I know that an Aberdeen firm has tendered, but I am not yet in a position to say which firm has been successful with its tender for this vessel.

14.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what plans the Government has for placing additional orders for warships with the shipbuilding industry, following the recommendations of the Report of the Sub-Committee of the Shipbuilding Advisory Committee.

The matter is under urgent consideration. Pending the outcome of this review I am afraid I am not in a position to make a statement.

Would not my hon. Friend agree that this is the best opportunity since the war to build warships quickly and, consequently, economically. Will he ask his right hon. Friend to make further representations about this matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

It is true that in the present state of the shipbuilding industry we are getting our warships built much more quickly and, through competitive tendering, more cheaply than we have previously. I am sure that my hon. Friend, having been in my office, will understand that only 8 per cent. of all the shipbuilding industry's construction comes from Admiralty orders, so that a solution of its problems cannot come entirely from the Admiralty.

Holy Loch (Security)

16.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, in view of his responsibilities for joint arrangements for the security of United States ships in the Holy Loch, if he will make a statement on the recent activities of canoeists approaching and boarding these ships.

So far as the local naval authorities are concerned these demonstrations although sometimes foolhardy are no more than a nuisance. They do not in any way endanger the security of the American ships involved or the contribution which this anchorage makes to the Western deterrent and the peace.

As a few canoeists, however much of a nuisance they may have been, seem able completely to riddle whatever security or insecurity arrangements have been made in consultation with the hon. Gentleman, would he not find it more to his advantage if he were to follow the advice recently tendered by certain great trade unions and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, that the sooner he gets these vessels out of this country the better for himself and for every other person concerned?

I am glad that the hon. Member agrees that it is only a very small number of canoeists. Our information is that there were eight, all English, I think. Of that number, only two or three provided most of the publicity stunts. I cannot agree with the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. The country as a whole believes that this is a very valuable and safe method of adding to the deterrent.

Is my hon. Friend aware that public opinion in Scotland would welcome the prosecution of these law breakers, especially as they are mainly Sassenachs anyway?

I think that that is a matter for the Procurator Fiscal rather than myself.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Scotland treats the English much better than his hon. Friend wants to see them treated?

18.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty for how long it is expected that the additional cost of £24,000 to provide Admiralty constabulary personnel in connection with the Polaris base at the Holy Loch will have to be met.

The duties on which these personnel are employed and the cost involved are likely to continue so long as the depôt ship and Polaris submarines are using the Holy Loch. I cannot say how long that will be.

Do these police, costing £24,000 a year, have to play a part in protecting the Polaris submarines from these canoeists, from English "weirdies" who are attracted to the Holy Loch by the inflammatory speeches of Left-wingers and pacifists and fellow travellers?

These police are normally employed on security duties at the Navy Buildings, Greenoch, the Cardwell Bay jetty and Ardnadam Pier, Dunoon. Although they play a small part, they do not play all the part in protection against the canoeists.

Can the hon. Gentleman explain why the police protect the Holy Loch and the vessels so ineffectively? Is he aware that the point of the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) was not the damage done by these canoeists—because it is common ground that they do not intend to do any damage—but that if the canoeists who do not intend to do any damage can get through with the ease which has been demonstrated on this occasion, it is clear that people with much more nefarious designs could get through?

I think it shows the sort of tolerance with which we have approached this—the fact that we have not tried to use strong-arm methods but have shown sensible tolerance. The hon. Member will agree that these canoeists are sometimes very foolhardy and even dangerous, and I fear that if they continue with these very strange tactics, they will not only risk their own lives, but may also risk the lives of those people who are trying to save them from accident.

Shipbuilding And Ship-Repairing Contracts, Aberdeen

19.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty how many Admiralty shipbuilding and ship-repairing contracts have been allocated to Aberdeen during the last twelve months.

It is the policy to place orders for new ships and craft as far as possible by competitive tender. As to contracts for repairs, the majority of naval repair work is undertaken in the Royal Dockyards. Aberdeen firms have not so far won any of the competitive tenders. No Admiralty shipbuilding and ship-repair contracts have been placed in Aberdeen in the last twelve months.

The hon. Gentleman has not given any figures. Is he aware that Aberdeen gets a very small proportion of the orders from the Admiralty—quite disproportionate to the amount of skill, the good shipyards and excellent workers and the unemployment in Aberdeen? Will he try to remedy that situation?

Yes, but it so happens that the shipbuilding firms in Aberdeen are not suitable for building frigates, or submarines, or the large tankers for which we have placed orders in the last year. I am aware of the problems, but the hon. and learned Member will agree with me that it is not just Aberdeen which is suffering from these difficulties.

Commonwealth Technical Training Week

20.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what Admiralty support will be given to the Common wealth Technical Training Week.

Commanders-in-chief and other authorities throughout the Commonwealth have been asked to give their utmost support to the local organisers of the Commonwealth Technical Training Week. As a result displays and exhibitions are being contributed at 150 different events. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines are also to be well represented at the parade and service at St. Paul's Cathedral on 1st June.

Navy Days And Naval Air Days

21.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what plans are being made this summer for Navy Days and Naval Air Days.

Two or three Navy Days will be held at each of the naval ports at Portsmouth, Devonport, Rosyth and Portland. One Air Day will be held at each of the seven air stations. I will circulate details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the attendance figures in recent years indicate that these events are maintaining their popularity?

Yes, Sir, I can. More than a quarter of a million people attended the open Navy Days and Air Days last year and the figure is increasing rather than decreasing. This is an excellent way of bringing the Navy into the eyes of the public, not just potential recruits, but parents, women and children who visit our ships. These are certainly a popular form of outing for many families.

Will my hon. Friend bring to the attention of his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War, who is sitting beside him, the possibility of having Army Days as well as Navy Days in future?

Following are the details:

Navy Days will be held during 1961 as follows:

  • At Rosyth on 20th and 21st May.
  • At Portland on 20th, 21st and 22nd May.
  • At Portsmouth and Devonport on 5th, 6th and 7th August.

Air Days will be held as follows:

  • At H.M.S. "Ariel" (Lee-on-Solent) on 15th June.
  • At R.N.A.S., Arbroath, on 24th June.
  • At R.N.A.S., Yeovilton, on 17th June.
  • At R.N.A.S., Abbotsinch, on 8th July.
  • At R.N.A.S., Culdrose, on 15th July.
  • At R.N.A.S., Brawdy, on 15th July.
  • At R.N.A.S., Lossiemouth, on 22nd July.

Shipbuilding, Devonport Dockyard

22.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty in view of the fact that the building of H.M.S. "Plymouth" has now been successfully completed in Her Majesty's Dockyard, Devonport, what plans he has for allowing another ship of this class or any other class to be built there in the near future.

Although H.M.S. "Plymouth" is virtually completed the construction of H.M.S. "Tartar" will continue until August, 1962. I am not yet in a position to make a statement considering future new building. I can promise that the particular claims of Her Majesty's Dockyard at Devonport will be fully taken into account.

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that Plymouth has twice the national average of unemployment and that H.M.S. "Eagle" will be finished in three years and that we do not now come under the Local Employment Act? Has he considered how he is to employ the 20,000 people who are now employed by the Admiralty in the dockyard?

I can foresee—and I have looked at this matter very carefully—a long period of high employment for Her Majesty's Dockyards, because we have to undertake a good deal of major refitting and modernisation of our ships. Only about 10 per cent. of our new construction, a comparative trickle, goes to the dockyards, while more than 90 per cent. goes to the commercial yards.

Car Parking Accommodation, Devonport Dockyard

23.

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what action he is taking to provide increased parking accommodation for the cars of his Department's employees working in Her Majesty's Dockyard, Devonport, in view of the fact that these are now parked all day in College Road, Royal Navy Avenue, Avondale Terrace, and the lane behind the terrace, to the inconvenience of the residents.

There is already parking space within Devonport Dockyard for 570 cars and 330 motor cycles. Parking space for another 480 cars and 320 motor cycles has been provided within the dockyard extension and outside, or is now being sought in local negotiations. The possibility of acquiring further sites for parking another 90 cars is at present being examined.

May I thank my hon. Friend for that reply? Is he aware that I put down this Question in view of the many representations and petitions I have had which show that there are still at least a hundred cars being parked in an area where there is no private parking space? Would he be kind enough to try to see that more space is made available in the dockyard area for these persons' cars?

I should like to take ths opportunity to say how grateful we are for the forbearance of the Plymouth City Council and also of the local residents in helping us to overcome this parking problem.