(by Private Notice) asked the Parliamentary Secretary of the Admiralty whether he will make a statement concerning the purchase of 84 modern trawlers from the existing fleet and in particular whether he will consult with the other Ministers concerned to minimise any adverse effect of this transaction upon employment, upon fish supplies to the public and upon any particular section of the fishing industry?
It has been decided to purchase additional trawlers to be converted for use with the Royal Navy; the number will probably be about 80. Full consultation has taken place with the Trawler Owners Federation and my right hon. and gallant Friend the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has been informed of the reasons for this purchase. The hon. Member can rest assured that the interests of all sections of the industry have been borne in mind.
I am not in a position yet to make a statement on that point, as the manning of these vessels will require special arrangements, but I will do so at the earliest opportunity.
Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether this purchase is the purchase which he foreshadowed in the Debate on the Navy Estimates, and is it intended in order to bring our mine-sweeping power up to war standard?
Yes, Sir, I think in the Debate on the Navy Estimates I did state that in an emergency the Admiralty would take up a number of trawlers. These particular trawlers are not for mine-sweeping but for anti-submarine work, and my Noble Friend and the Board of Admiralty thought that, in view of the fact that this does greatly enhance our preparedness, it would be advisable to acquire and convert these trawlers now.
Will the Admiralty consider allowing the men who are at present serving on these ships to continue serving in them when they are taken over by the Admiralty?
While we shall try to do that as far as possible, there is this reservation, that the men we want to employ in the first place are those who have been trained in the patrol service as regards anti-submarine work.
Does the hon. Member not consider that these men who have been trained in this work should have special consideration, particularly as they have special knowledge of the use of trawlers?
Yes, that is so, and we shall try to do that as far as possible, but I would point out that it may not be always possible. In so far as we are taking up these trawlers I imagine that those men who may not be required will find it easy to get employment elsewhere.
Is the hon. Member aware that a number of these trawlerowners, in agreement with the trades unions concerned, have already indicated that 500 men will be thrown out of work?
Has the hon. Member considered that new trawlers might have been built in a comparatively short time in some of the yards which are shut up, or which are partially employed, and would not new boats be much better for this work?
In all these problems we try to strike a balance. We have a number of trawlers being built, and these trawlers are being converted now so that they may be immediately available.