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Employment (Dockyards And Shipbuilding)

Volume 892: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1975

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2.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what will be the effect of recently announced cuts in defence expenditure on employment in the Royal dockyards.

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what estimate he has made of the effect on employment in naval shipbuilding yards and naval dockyards of the recently announced additional £110 million reduction in defence spending.

The reduction of £110 million in the defence budget for 1976–77 should not affect employment either in the yards building ships for the Royal Navy or in the Royal dockyards.

Does that mean that there will be no unemployment in Rosyth dockyard as a consequence of the recently announced cuts in defence expenditure? Does my hon. Friend recognise that more than 6,000 people are employed in this naval dockyard, which is one of the biggest employers in the whole of Fife? Has he made any estimate of the number of jobs that would be cut there if the nuclear programme were abandoned and the cuts recommended by some of my hon. Friends were implemented in full?

I assure my hon. Friend that we have quite enough practical problems at present to deal with without indulging in hypothetical considerations of the kind he has outlined. It remains the policy of the Government to maintain dockyard capacity at about its present level and to use capacity which is temporarily released from warship refitting for other productive purposes.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Can he assure me that the recent £110 million reduction in defence spending will not mean any unemployment or any reduction in the labour force in the Vosper Thornycroft dockyard in Southampton?

I assure my hon. Friend that the cut of £110 million is not expected to cause any reductions in the employment of the warship building firms in general, especially as there is a shortage of labour in the warship building industry at present. Royal Navy and overseas orders are likely to take up the available capacity in the main warship building yards for the foreseeable future.

I know that the Minister must have gone into this matter very carefully. Can he give us an indication of what sort of other productive work he has in mind?

I presume that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to the naval dockyards. In the foreseeable and immediate future, the yards will be fully taxed dealing with naval work.

Is it not the case that if the nuclear servicing at Rosyth were removed, Rosyth could once again be very competitive in the commercial servicing of ships?

Rosyth Dockyard is doing outstanding work in the service of the Fleet. I am sure that the whole House would like to pay a tribute to the workers at all levels who make this work possible.