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Credit Facilities

Volume 649: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1961

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32.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will publish a White Paper giving details of the information he has received regarding the credit facilities now being offered by the principal foreign competitors of the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry.

The information which I have received, some of it confidential, demonstrates that the credit facilities offered even within one country vary widely from one transaction to another, depending on the commercial prospects and, in some cases, conditions imposed by the Government. In these circumstances it would be neither appropriate nor helpful to publish a White Paper.

Surely my right hon. Friend is aware of the very strong feeling that this is one of the disadvantages our industry suffers under? The more information he can give to clear this up the more welcome it will be, so that we may know where we stand in our shipping industry.

The difficulty is that if we produce a White Paper we want it to be comprehensive, to show what people abroad are doing. The difficulty is to find a comprehensive picture. The picture we have now got at present in the Ministry is that credit facilities are not necessarily a handicap to our exports.

May I ask the Minister to get a small booklet which was issued by the Federation of British Industries yesterday as a result of a visit made by Sir Norman Kipping and another gentleman to Japan, where they say, on page 15, that

"A Japanese exporter of shipping"—

Order. Verbatim quotations from articles are out of order in Questions.

I am very grateful. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will send it to me, and I will read it, but we are not losing orders to Japan. We are losing orders to Sweden, Germany and Holland, and they do not get credit facilities.

If my right hon. Friend cannot produce a White Paper about credit facilities offered to foreign competitors, could he publish one to show how streamlined trade union representation works to the advantage of both the workers and industry?

I think the best thing I can try to do is to get this industry efficient as soon as we can without attributing blame to anybody.

Why should the Minister regard as confidential information he has received while overseas in connection with credit facilities furnished by financiers and shipbuilders to enable them to build British ships? Is it not very important that we should know all the facts so that we can decide upon a policy of our own? Is he aware that there is nothing confidential about our position in this country? Why should he be confidential about the position elsewhere?

If people give me information confidentially I intend to treat it confidentially and not to publish memoires.