The only figures I can supply relate to vessels actually laid down. Tonnage laid down on the North-East Coast during the second quarter of 1952 totalled 102,935 gross tons, compared with 164,993 gross tons in the corresponding quarter of last year.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his figures are disturbing, though perhaps not quite so disturbing as others which were previously available? Whilst I endeavour to reconcile them, will he review the whole question of steel allocation and see whether it can be improved?
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there are very large numbers of orders on the books of many of these firms and that they cannot go ahead because of the short allocation of steel? Will he look at this matter again?
I have another Question about the future allocation of steel and I will answer the hon. Member's point when I come to it, if I may. Firms have full order books and keels are laid down as slipways are vacated.
Fluctuations in the quarterly statistics of new tonnage started are to be expected. The substantial drop in the percentage of world tonnage started in British yards for the second quarter of this year does not accurately reflect the real trends, though the percentage of world shipping actually under construction in United Kingdom shipyards has in fact been falling slightly for some time. The resurgence of the shipbuilding industries in Germany and Japan and the greater activity in the United States shipyards, are the main factors which account for this.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his announcement about the allocations will give considerable satisfaction to the industry? Will he also look at the problem of out-of-sequence deliveries, about which there are many complaints, and will he see whether he can improve the position?
Does it occur to the right hon. Gentleman that there is another factor in this situation entirely apart from the allocation of steel, which he agrees is not the main factor, and that is that other countries are actually subsidising the construction of vessels?
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to pay attention to Merseyside in order to see that, from the point of view of shipbuilding, Merseyside gets its proper supplies?