Orders of the Day — British Shipbuilders (Borrowing Powers) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:04 pm on 1st November 1983.

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Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 7:04 pm, 1st November 1983

I was making the point that the hon. Gentleman's constituency has many farms and a great deal of agriculture. He will probably agree that it is proper, for strategic reasons, for this country to subsidise agriculture. I believe that the Minister said that since 1977 we have have spent £840 million on shipbuilding. That is a lot of money that has to be set aside. We give an annual subsidy to farmers of £1,250 million. Not being a farmer, of course, I cannot grasp such a sum. It averages a fantastic £10,000-plus subsidy per farmer each year. Plainly, not all farmers receive that subsidy, but we use averages when talking about shipyard redundancies and the subsidy that shipyard workers receive. It is equally valid therefore to point out the huge subsidies that farmers receive. I am not saying that it is wrong. I am trying to put the £840 million into perspective.

There has been talk of the unrest and unhappiness in the industry. I regret that the Minister was not a little more positive when he introduced the Bill, which we are happy to support. He has, perhaps correctly, criticised the workers on occasions, but there is another side to the coin, as we have heard tonight. Early deliveries are made by various yards, yet I have never heard a Conservative Minister praise the workers, which is a great pity. They always knock British workers. The British yards are suffering difficulties, as are the European yards. We know that sit-ins have just ended in some of the German yards. There are strikes in the German yards, but we never hear about them. No one ever mentions them because the press and the establishment in Great Britain are too busy knocking our people.

During the Falkland crisis patriotic workers worked night and day to launch a carrier on time and workers converted merchant ships so that they could take part in the task force.