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Shipbuilding And Aerospace

Volume 893: debated on Monday 9 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he can now give a timetable for the implementation of the Government's plans for the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aerospace industries; and if he is yet in a position to give an estimate of the cost to public funds.

We intend to do our utmost to see that the Shipbuilding and Aircraft Industries Bill is made law in the present Session. As I explained to the House on 17th March, it would not be appropriate to estimate the costs at this stage because of the large number of unquoted securities to be acquired.

Does the Secretary of State not agree that, although he has, as usual, neglected to answer the question about the cost, it is quite obvious that the British aircraft industry has not failed the nation and that, therefore, he should drop the disruptive proposals for nationalisation? Better still, in view of the decisive rejection by the British people last week of one of his other crackpot proposals, should he not resign?

I need not explain to the House the Government's commitment to the implementation of their excellent election programme, which they put before the people twice last year and upon which they were elected. If the hon. Gentleman really believes that what happened last week represented an election victory for the Conservative Party he may have misunderstood the results.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer today will be greeted with much happiness by people who work in industry and who are extremely anxious to see these plans carried through as soon as possible? Is he further aware that at present delay is causing great concern to all aspects of the industry, and that the sooner this measure gets on the statute book the better?

I agree with my hon. Friend that, whatever political view there may be about the measures that we are pledged to introduce, there is general agreement among management, unions and workers that the uncertainty is damaging. Therefore, when I answered the Question I made it clear that we intend to proceed in accordance with our pledges to the British people.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not reconsider his proposal, particularly in regard to ship repairers? I have in mind particularly Bristol Channel Ship Repairers Ltd., which operates from small yards in South Wales and which depends on a specialist connection? Does he not agree that there is no case whatever for nationalising this firm?

The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the ship repairing industry was included in our proposals, but I am not surprised that he had Bristol Channel Shiprepairers in mind, as that company has spent, perhaps, £500,000 drawing the position to the attention of the people.

Is the Minister aware that Hawker Siddeley shop stewards in my constituency have no doubt whatever about his sincerity and determination to carry out the measures? They are worried about future orders when we are in this position. Therefore, will the Minister please bear in mind that the HS146 is a good aircraft and that they want to build it?

I am very well aware of the anxiety among Hawker Siddeley workers about the HS146, which my hon. Friend will know was dropped by Hawker Siddeley and not by the Government. One of the reasons we are anxious to proceed is that we want to remove the uncertainty and to look at the future of the industry. Meanwhile, the House knows that we are making arrangements to ensure that in the interim the damage is minimised. I shall shortly be making a statement about the underwriting of one foreign order to ensure that it does not go by the board before the Bill is completed.

Does the Secretary of State for Industry agree that the one lesson of last week is that the country is tired of the doctrinaire and divisive policies that are associated with his name? Does he not understand that the saving of £300 million that could be achieved by dropping this measure is the easiest way of giving confidence to the industry and of restoring the prospects of employment in it?

It is comments like that that make it increasingly difficult for me to take the hon. Gentleman seriously as a Shadow Minister.