§ 2. Mr. Loyden
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information he has on the number of orders, and for what types of vessels, held by shipbuilders in Northern Ireland.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)
Harland and Wolff Shipbuilding and Heavy Industries Limited currently has orders for 12 vessels—an auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel for the Ministry of Defence, five Suezmax type tankers and six Capesize bulk carriers, for which three contracts have already been signed, with a further three to be completed shortly.
§ Mr. Loyden
The Minister will be aware that, with the exception of the MOD vessel, only three of the 11 ships now on order at Harland and Wolff are United Kingdom registered and owned. We welcome the security that the present orders offer to 1994–95, but would not Harland and Wolff's future, as well as that of other British shipyards, be better secured if we were to adopt the policy of new build for Britain's merchant fleet and thus ensure that shipyards throughout the United Kingdom employ our people and that our seamen have jobs to go to?
§ Mr. Needham
I am delighted that the recently privatised Harland and Wolff now has the longest order book in its history, with £565 million worth of orders, that it is competing successfully with the Koreans and the Japanese, that the future of 2,500 of its people is assured and that it is the premier shipyard in the United Kingdom.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
In view of the long list of orders that Harland and Wolff has procured—I welcome that, and wholly endorse what the Minister has said—the recent large pay-offs in the island are alarming. Could not 978 something be done to obtain some repair jobs to hold those workers so that they will not have to be laid off for a considerable time?
§ Mr. Needham
I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. It was always apparent that as the AOR was completed many jobs and skills would not be required in the new orders that have come through. However, the hon. Gentleman rightly refers to the other businesses which Harland and Wolff is now expanding and building up, and I am sure that its success, which I believe is assured under privatisation, offers the best hope for those men in the future.
§ Dr. Godman
May I say how thrilled I am that that United Kingdom shipyard has such a healthy order book? However, I regret that there is no expansion in the recruitment of workers to that shipyard. How much money has been received by way of those orders from the seventh directive of the European Community's shipbuilding intervention fund, and how much of that money will be used to purchase from United Kingdom manufacturers the goods and services required for the vessels?
§ Mr. Needham
Clearly, it is for United Kingdom manufacturers to compete as subcontractors for the work that will be placed out by Harland and Wolff. I am sure that a large proportion will be placed with subcontractors. The percentage of aid given under the EC assistance programme was 13 per cent. last year, and it is being renegotiated this year. However, Harland and Wolff is continuing to compete and to be profitable, even though that intervention assistance is being reduced.