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British Shipbuilders

Volume 416: debated on Wednesday 14 January 1981

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2.52 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the level of efficiency of British Shipbuilders.

My Lords, only the most substantial and rapid improvement in productivity and efficiency can give British Shipbuilders the prospect of a viable future. The Government believe that the necessary determination to do this exists within the corporation. Overall, British Shipbuilders' orders are likely to be about 25 per cent. up on 1979 levels.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging reply. May I ask whether the Government are satisfied that the £65 million being advanced to the British shipbuilding industry for financing will not be used on over-manning or on satisfying high wage demands?

My Lords, I think that my noble friend's concern is a very proper one, but it is more a matter for the board of British Shipbuilders than for ourselves. But we have urged upon them that they improve their competitive position as a result of the subsidy being given them.

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a further question? Is there any information about potential recruits for the merchant navy, an increase in which could possibly be a sign of a future increase in the British shipbuilding industry?

My Lords, obviously, the future of the British shipbuilding industry is closely connected with future naval orders. The Government are fully aware of the industrial implications of decisions on warship procurement or on merchant navy recruitment which we may need to take in the light of recent announcements.