asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will report progress in the study group's investigation of the Royal dockyards.
I hope to submit the report of the dockyard study to my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Defence, shortly.
Does the Minister agree that this is such an important document that it ought to be published and discussed with the trade unions involved? Will the Minister give an assurance that the eventual outcome will not endanger the future of any dockyard and that the work-forces in the dockyards are indispensable to securing a United Kingdom defence capability?
On the latter point, I must not prejudge the studies. The hon. Gentleman will be aware, on the former point, that it is our intention, given the views of my right hon. Friend, that there should be a full consultative document which will be discussed with the staff side, the trade unions and, I hope, with hon. Members and other interests.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the principal frames of reference for the study group will be the wastage of certain grades of technician in the dockyards, and that it will he looking very closely at comparability with equivalent skills and trades in civilian job opportunities?
We have been looking at comparability in recent weeks. We have been examining that problem because we have been losing desperately needed skilled workers from our dockyards.
Will my hon. Friend accept that the investigation has already caused apprehension, and the three measly paragraphs devoted to Her Majesty's dockyards in the Defence White Paper together with the promise that the investigation will be complete by 1 April has caused additional apprehension? Is my hon. Friend prepared to set the date for the completion of that investigation?
The date is "In the very near future". The results will have to be considered then by my right hon. Friend, but I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner) that there will be many more than three measly paragraphs in the report, and I think that she will find the report most acceptable.