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New Cunard Liner

Volume 645: debated on Monday 2 October 1961

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asked the Minister of Transport if he will now announce the details of the mutual agreement between the Cunard Company and Her Majesty's Government, made by him in accordance with paragraph 26 of the Memorandum of Points of Agreement, Command Paper No. 1319; and to which shipyards work on contracts and subcontracts in connection with the new Cunard liner have been allocated.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport
(Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett)

The tenders were returnable on 31st July and were opened yesterday. Their evaluation by Cunard and the Ministry has therefore only just begun. The final detailed agreement will not be ready until a later stage.

Does the Minister not realise that many shipyards are waiting in suspense for the gigantic orders which may flow from this amazing, untimely and unexpected plan of Government opulence?

Yes, I think we do recognise that, and we hope to be ready some time in October with the evaluation of the tenders, after which we shall get on as quickly as possible.


asked the Minister of Transport, in view of the fact that the majority of the shareholders of the Cunard White Star Company have declared themselves against the building of a new "Queen" liner, whether he will withdraw the offer of a public loan to that company.

No, Sir. I understand that the facts are not as my hon. Friend alleges.

Is my hon. and gallant Friend not aware that of those who replied to the questionnaire 93 per cent. voted against the project? When such a large proportion of those replying were against it, when the House is uneasy about the project, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is calling for a great deal of cutting of expenditure, is it not time that this project was reconsidered?

No, Sir. I understand that Mr. Gregory, who leads the opposition of shareholders, simply declared that he had the support of 10 per cent. or more, which is sufficient for him to requisition a special meeting of the company. But that is very different from saying that the majority of shareholders are opposed to the project. At the recent annual meeting the project was endorsed.

If the Government persist in spending £18 million of public money on this plan, will the Minister at least see that the money is fairly distributed among the many shipyards which are in need of the work and which are capable and willing to do it?

I am not sure that I follow the point made by the hon. and learned Member. I am afraid that it is not possible to award a contract to more than one shipbuilder or, in the case of Swan Hunter, to two tendering jointly.