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Foreign Shipyards (Minister's Visit)

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Transport what conclusions he reached as a result of his tour of foreign shipyards; and if he will make a statement.

I have nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 8th November to my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams).

The Minister did not say very much on that occasion. While we all support him in any action he may take to make the British shipping industry more competitive, may I ask whether he gained any information as a result of his visit which was not already known to the British shipping industry? If so, what use is he making of it? Has he put it before both sides of the industry, and what has their reaction been?

I gained information which was not known before. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour is in touch with both sides of industry and I am consulting closely with him, because I am certain—without casting any doubts about who has been responsible in the past—that we must get the relationship between management and men better. Another by-product of my tour abroad was that I managed to get quite a number of inquiries here. I have with me a letter from a shipbuilding firm stating that it has now been asked by a Norwegian company to tender for a ship and adding:

"I think their last paragraph about your visit is a very nice tribute and, I am sure, justified."
The last paragraph which is referred to was to the effect that the Norwegian company would put inquiries here which they did not put here before.

Can the Minister answer one simple question within the limit of what he saw? Can he say whether modernisation in those shipyards is more advanced than in Britain?

The best of our yards are equal to their yards, but there are quite a number of yards in this country which are not equal to the best in other countries.

Did my right hon. Friend find the same multiplicity of unions and the same lines of demarcation in yards abroad as exist in this country?

If the Minister is claiming that as a result of his visit to Norway an order is likely to be placed by a Norwegian firm in this country, why does he not go away more frequently?

I am so fond of the right hon. Gentleman that I could not part company from him for too long.