7. Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now renew the Shipbuilding Credits Scheme.
§ 45. Mr. McMaster
asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to improve the credit facilities available to British shipowners who place new orders with United Kingdom shipyards.
Would the President of the Board of Trade not agree that his reply will be very disappointing indeed to those in the shipbuilding industry, who are very concerned at the removal of the Scheme and now find that foreign shipowners can buy ships in this country at more favourable credit terms than can British shipping companies? Would he agree to review the matter of the effects of the Budget on the industry are as disastrous as the major oil companies anticipate?
§ Mr. Jay
As the hon. Member knows, since the new export credits facilities were announced by me in January there has been a remarkable increase in orders for ships. I announced further credit facilities last week, and I think we had better see the effect of these and have the report of the Shipbuilding Inquiry Committee before taking further decisions.
§ Mr. McMaster
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Common Market countries are at present seriously considering giving a 10 per cent. subsidy to shipbuilding in order to compete with Japan? Is he further aware that a few weeks ago I received an answer from the Government saying that British owners were not at a disadvantage as against foreign shipowners ordering vessels here because they could take advantage of the investment allowance? Now that that advantage has gone, it is no satisfaction that foreign owners can order ships under the export credits scheme. It is the British owners we are concerned about, particularly in view of the statement made by the Chairman of B.P.
§ Mr. Jay
All the investment allowance has not gone. It is merely been somewhat diminished, but it is still there—and on some argument it has not even been diminished. [Laughter.]It is a somewhat obtuse argument, but it is still there; perhaps we have better see the effects before taking a decision.
§ Mr. Barber
As the right hon. Gentleman rightly agrees that one effect of the Corporation Tax will be adversely to affect the shipping industry and hence the United Kingdom shipbuilding industry, will he not do something to make up for loss that is bound to occur as a result of the Corporation Tax?
§ Mr. Jay
I have done a great deal by the export credits scheme, which, as I say, has led to some very encouraging orders to the industry, but we must not suppose that the situation entirely depends on credit facilities from the Government, but partly on the efficiency and competitiveness of the industry.
§ Mr. Derek Page
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for hon. Members to read newspapers in the House?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is proper for hon. Members to refer to newspapers if they are studying the business of the moment. I feel confident that no hon. Member would do anything but that.
§ Mr. Hamling
Will my right hon. Friend note that the shipbuilders, who believe so much in private enterprise, have the begging bowl out again?
§ Mr. McMaster
Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.