Orders of the Day — Shipbuilding (Northern Ireland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:03 am on 26th July 1982.

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Photo of Hon. Adam Butler Hon. Adam Butler , Bosworth 1:03 am, 26th July 1982

Inevitably, and quite properly, this debate has dealt more with the industry than with the immediate problems to which the order refers—amendments to the redundancy payments scheme. I shall deal quickly with two or three points and then come to the tone of my opening speech and the message that I delivered.

First, in answer to what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and others said about a possible meeting between my right hon. Friend and the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions and others, it is regrettable that, apparently, a letter was mislaid. On the other hand a reply certainly was sent, in the first instance, suggesting that as the Secretary of State had met the CSEU on several occasions and that it was apparently entirely a shipbuilding matter, the Minister directly responsible, namely, myself, should see the CSEU on that occasion.

As one would expect, the Secretary of State has been extremely generous with his time in seeing various trade union deputations and those from other bodies. I believe that he had in mind anyway, and certainly as a result of representations made tonight, to ask me to suggest to the CSEU that a meeting might be appropriate if it were to cover an area of interest falling within its own field, which is large within the Province, going a bit further than simply Harland and Wolff. That seems to me be the right way to leave that matter.

Several hon. Members have raised the question of what Harland and Wolff should build. Criticisms have been made of the decision by I think, the previous Administration, but I am pointing no fingers, that Harland and Wolff should concentrate on the larger vessels. At one time that seemed to be the right decision. It happens, as I have said, to be in that area of the market—the large oil tanker and dry bulk market—that there is the biggest depression.