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Volume 929: debated on Monday 4 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry (1) whether he will make a detailed statement on the negotiations between Her Majesty's Government and the Shell Company which led to the decision by that company to withdraw its letter of intent to the Mitsubishi Company for the construction of two 48,500 cubic metre liquified petroleum gas carriers;(2) what specific inducements, if any, have been offered by Her Majesty's Government to the Shell Company and to any other shipping or tanker companies which have resulted in the cancellation of contracts by British-owned shipping companies to build overseas;(3) what financial commitments have been made, specifically to the Shell Company to build in Belfast, and more generally to British shipowners who may have been induced to cancel letters of intent or contracts to build ships in overseas yards;

(4) whether he will make public the general policy guidelines, if any, which are being applied by Her Majesty's Government in bringing formal or informal pessure to bear on British shipowners to ignore market and price considerations in the placing of their shipbuilding orders.

United Kingdom shipowners recognise the importance of the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry, and have discussed with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Industry and Trade how they can assist the Government policy of maintaining a healthy industry in the United Kingdom. As announced in the House on 24th February, the Government have allocated £65 million to assist British shipyards to quote prices that are more in line with those of certain of our competitors outside Europe. The specific issue of the Shell Company is for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry (1) if he will give an assurance that the joint Polish/British shipowning company referred to in the communiqué issued after the visit of Mr. Jaroszewicz will not itself engage in the operation of any ships built under the agreement;(2) whether it is envisaged that any ships built under the proposed Polish/British shipbuilding agreement will be offered for charter; and, if so, on what basis they will be chartered.

The arrangements are the subject of negotiation and must remain confidential until the negotiations are complete.