Scott Lithgow (Britoil Contract)

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 24th January 1984.

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Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden 4:10 pm, 24th January 1984

I beg to move, That this House, recognising the central importance of the Britoil contract with British Shipbuilders to the United Kingdom's future in North Sea technology and the devastating effect on the Lower Clyde of Scott Lithgow's loss of this contract, condemns the offensive and unworthy attempts by Ministers to divert attention from their own lamentable inaction by blaming the present disaster on the work force alone; calls for an immediate halt to their unjustified attacks on the nation's ability to carry out the contract which can only damage this country's credibility and encourage our competitors abroad; and taking account of the growing evidence that the cost of cancellation to the taxpayer will be significantly higher than the cost of re-negotiating the contract, demands that immediate steps be taken by the Government to secure the future of the Yard and to ensure that the Britoil contract is completed at Scott Lithgow.

As we look around Scotland, there are problems aplenty. As we watch what is virtually the destruction of our economic base, only the most gullible person would now believe the rather complacent talk about economic recovery that we heard only a few weeks ago. Even against that background, and against the many problems, I believe that we are correct this afternoon to concentrate upon the crisis of the Scott Lithgow yard. It is unusual because it is not a case where jobs are at risk because there is no work or no order. There is a customer and there is work ready to be done. We have a dispute between a company that is 100 per cent. owned by the public sector and one that is 48 per cent. owned by the public sector. Yet we have an appalling position where the venture is bidding to end in disaster and the whole thing to collapse in a welter of writs. What is the point in allowing that to continue?

There are a number of reasons why I believe that it is essential that the Ministers intervene and take some action to try to find an immediate solution. The first and obvious point that I make is the impact on Greenock and Port Glasgow. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) has worked extraordinarily hard during the crisis and will no doubt be speaking about it in a minute or two.

It will be known to many hon. Members that about 94 or 95 per cent. of the work force lives in the Greenock and Port Glasgow area, where male unemployment is already touching 20 per cent. If we are to lose 4,000 jobs directly, which I fear will be the result of the cancellation of the contract, if the disaster were allowed to run its course, the total might rise to 8,000 or more. It does not affect only Scott Lithgow. All the subcontractors are at risk. There is Motherwell Bridge, and UIE on the upper Clyde, a company that has fought particularly hard to keep itself afloat and which has been rightly much praised by successive Governments for doing so. There will be an impact not just upon the town but on the area, the region and the Scottish economy.

The second pressing argument that I urge upon Ministers is that, if we scrap this contract and allow it to go down, we are, in effect, scrambling out of the key area of North sea technology. This is not a standard rig. It represents a new frontier—a cliché which, for once, I believe is justified — dynamically positioned and operating in deep water. It is the type of rig that will become increasingly important as conventional oil reserves are depleted and as we have to push into wilder

The third reason is that I believe—I cannot put it higher than a belief which I think should be put to the Minister—that there is a strong case that the public purse would be saved money if we were to continue and complete the contract, as against the formidable costs of cancellation.

I recognise all the difficulties of doing the calculations and computations. However, Professor Pickett, a professor at Strathclyde, has studied the costs of cancellation, the repayment of the stage payments, redundancy payments, tax losses, supplementary benefit and even the rate loss to the local authority. He believes, after the realisation of assets, that the cost of cancellation will be close to £100 million. He believes that the cost of completion will be some £20 million less. That is based not upon an optimistic assumption but upon the pessimistic one that there will be redundancies anyway in early 1986 when the rig is completed which, we hope, would be avoidable if we could continue with the work.

Professor Pickett is not alone. The Engineers and Managers Association and a number of other people have all come to the same broad conclusion. I do not stand on any set of figures. I cannot do so or offer my expertise. I believe that there is a case and that it must be rebutted if Ministers are to continue to take the negative attitude that they have displayed so depressingly during the long weeks of crisis.

I remind the Secretary of State—I am sure that he is aware of it—that the British Shipbuilders accounts for 1982–83 show that a fearsome loss of over £60 million is recorded against Scott Lithgow's name. However, if he reads the small print, he will see that the amount includes a substantial figure for future provision. We know from what the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry told the House on 20 December 1983 that the part of that future provision which is credited to the Britoil contract is £43·8 million.

If one takes the computations that have been made and puts them against the cost of completion, there has already been the provision, from which British Shipbuilders cannot escape, of £43·8 million. That seems to underline the type of arguments that have been put forward in a number of quarters. We are entitled to say that we want to know whether the Government have any figures of their own. We want to know what groundwork and preparations were made by the Scottish Office and the Department of Trade and Industry before it was decided that they would wash their hands of this rig contract and, effectively we fear, of Scott Lithgow.

The Secretary of State has talked about this matter in public. I heard him on the broadcast programme "7 Days" on Sunday. He opened with a slight sneer at Professor Pickett on the ground that he was a gentleman who was known to have been connected with political parties. Very well, if we take that view we shall be leaving a great many people out of the calculations.

In response to a letter from me dated 22 December, the Secretary of State wrote on 19 January and informed me that he did not believe that it was possible to produce the kind of balance of figures that I had requested. What I find remarkably significant is: But the comparative analysis which you suggest cannot realistically be undertaken, because the costs of the 'renegotiation option' cannot be estimated with any degree of confidence. I believe that that statement can be challenged, but if we consider it solely on the renegotiation option — the Minister is not disputing in that reply that it would be possible to calculate the costs of cancellation — we cannot shrug the question off. There must be costings, estimates and balances struck. It is a damned disgrace if they have not been struck by his civil servants or colleagues. The House has a duty to demand to see the figures and to demand an explanation for their absence if they cannot be produced.

There is a great deal of suspicion about the way in which the Government and British Shipbuilders have approached the problem. It is a suspicion that has been reinforced—I do not wish to dwell upon this at great length—by the somewhat offensive attitude with which the matter has been dealt.

I hesitate to suggest—I hope that there will be no justification for such a suggestion—that a decision was taken deliberately as a matter of policy that closure should be allowed to happen. What is clear, and what I am trying to deduce from the facts, is that Ministers must have seen disaster looming and, having leverage and influence, they took no action to avert it.

We received a series of embittering speeches in which the work force was cast as the sole scapegoat for the trouble. We saw an example of what I would describe as the Admiral Byng approach to politics. We were left with the impression that 4,000 summary executions on the lower Clyde would do a mighty lot to encourage others to concentrate upon the benefits of Conservative policy for British industry.

We were told, inevitably, that Scott Lithgow's wounds were self-inflicted and that those responsible must accept the consequences. It was to be a cautionary tale. We are entitled to protest about that callous and inadequate approach and the excess with which it was argued.

I objected very much to the fact that the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, speaking in the House on 20 December, cast doubts upon the views of the Archbishop of Glasgow about the social consequences of the catastrophe. Those were entirely relevant and a factor that should have been taken into account, together with the fears of many others.

The Minister's chief, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, referred in the most slighting way to "malevolent ninnies" when talking of those trying to come to the aid of Scott Lithgow. We also heard his now notorious remarks on the wireless when he compared the failure of the lower Clyde work force to measure up to work completed by people taken straight from the paddy fields of Korea.

I concede, as everyone would concede, that there have been problems in the yard and that the work force must take its share of responsibility, as must everyone else. Sir Robert Atkinson wrote a remarkably confused letter to the Financial Times attacking the work force. He said that there had been much progress in the past 18 months and that Scott Lithgow was near success. If he is right about that—I merely give his opinion that the yard is near success—it is doubly tragic that the yard should slip away, as it has been allowed to do.

It is clear that the contract, with its narrow time constraints and unrealistic expectations, was negotiated by British Shipbuilders' top management at board room level. Those managers sat and watched the failures of both system and management that allowed the company to drift to disaster, but they were unable or unwilling to intervene. It is not very helpful to spend time going over the past, but this is a real crisis. The House is entitled to ask the Secretary of State, the Department of Trade and Industry or the Scottish Office how they intend to proceed and what can be done to help.

One of the most alarming and depressing things that I have read for a long time is the Government amendment on the Order Paper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shocking".] My hon. Friends say that it is shocking and disgraceful. Those words are not used lightly but have the full force of anger. The Government amendment shows an unyielding and dogmatic approach that is indefensible given the problems that we face. I can almost hear the coffin lid being slammed and nailed down, after the amendment was tabled.

The amendment asks the House to "deplore any moves" to resolve the dispute. Two public sector companies are fighting in the courts like Kilkenny cats, and public money is disappearing like snow from a dyke. Thousands of men are being sent down the road to join the dole queues, yet the House is being invited to consider the proposition that the Government have no cause to intervene and should not intervene as a matter of principle. It is a disgrace and a shame that such an amendment should be proposed by the Conservative Government. That is like the rescue services in the north of Scotland refusing to go up into the hills to look for lost climbers, on the grounds that it was their own blooming fault that they went there in the first place.

I say seriously to the Minister that it is common sense and humanity to intervene. If Ministers stand pat on the line presented in the amendment, they show a combination of prejudice and insensitivity that should rule them out for serious further consideration as Members of the House by the electors of Scotland.

It is extremely sad to see the Secretary of State's name on the Order Paper. I hope that he is feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed. The Secretary of State might take it as a compliment that there were some signs of a plea of mitigation on his behalf in the letter to the Financial Times of 19 January. Sir Robert Atkinson said in his letter that renegotiation was not practicable because Britoil had lost confidence in the ability of British Shipbuilders and the chairman of British Shipbuilders, Mr. Day, had made it clear that renegotiation of the contract was contrary to the best interests of the organisation. To be fair to the right hon. Gentleman, Sir Robert did not say that he would not want to intervene as a matter of principle in any event, but that is a spirit of the Government amendment.

I hope that the Secretary of State will make his position clear. If, as I suspect, his position is still as it was in his recent letter to me, I hope that he will recognise that he is in an impossible position, trapped by a harsh and unyielding amendment. The honourable thing for the Secretary of State to do is to resign.

One thing is absolutely clear. No negotiations are taking place. We are being invited to watch the collapse of Scott Lithgow. We are being asked to be party to the national humiliation of watching one of our principal customers, Britoil, which is 48 per cent. state owned, either going to the far east or going for another option that is manifestly unsatisfactory and will handicap it in North sea oil technology. That will give pleasure only to our competitors and to those taken from the paddy fields to whom the Minister so slightingly referred.

I should like to know what the Government's current position is and what they are trying to do. Is there now a scramble for a private buyer? In the last sentence of the letter of 19 January, the Minister says: We must now concentrate our efforts on finding a new operator who can make a fresh start.

Is the Minister trying to find such an operator within the time scale that will allow a fresh start on this contract, or has he written off the contract altogether? Is it to be Trafalgar House, which, I understand, sent representatives to the yard this week? Is it to be Götaverken Arendal, the Swedish outfit? Is it to be the unnamed buyer to whom Sir Robert Atkinson refers in his letter? What is to be the cost to the taxpayer? How many jobs will be lost? The Secretary of State recently used the word "trawling" in a broadcast. How long will that trawling take? Some of us have bitter memories of a similar exercise over the Invergordon smelter. We were told that there was a short list of six, which disappeared to a short list of none and the inevitable, embittering closure.

I am sure that the Secretary of State appreciates the practical force of the argument that there is a problem about privatisation, however attractive it is to him. Britoil, whoever it has spoken to, has made clear one fact. It is that Britoil is talking about a time slot of four, perhaps five, weeks before it takes irrevocable decisions to commit the organisation to solutions apart from the contract with Scott Lithgow. I do not believe—I may be wrong—even on the most optimistic assumptions, that it would be possible to get together a private consortium that could rescue the contract within that time scale. That is the basis of our belief that the preferred and right solution, probably the only practical solution, is the renegotiation of the contract between British Shipbuilders and Britoil.

I make it clear that we shall, of course, look at anything that will save the yard and the jobs. However, I urge upon the Minister that even at this twelfth hour, if he got the parties together, used his influence and leverage and took the situation and perhaps individuals by the scruff of the neck, as someone who, as a Minister, has such a large holding in both companies, we could still make the progress that is so badly needed. The Government set the external financing limit of British Shipbuilders. The Government fund that deficit. It is no time for pussyfooting around, talking about insubstantial possible rescue operations or the economic theories promulgated by the Adam Smith Institute. If it makes sense for a third party to come in, it must also make sense for British Shipbuilders to get on with the job and complete the contract. Admittedly, large losses have piled up. British Shipbuilders will have to meet them anyway. It cannot escape from that accumulated debt. Therefore, both would start at the same point. If one makes sense, so does the other. The British Shipbuilders option has the enormous advantage of being able to prevent the catastrophe that is looming on the lower Clyde.

I want a promise and an undertaking of action from the Secretary of State. We are not talking for a narrow, sectional interest in Scotland. There is an enormous range of public support. It has been reflected recently in the press. I am grateful to the press for the way in which it has carried on the argument and given the public the information that they need to form judgments. Everyone is alarmed and distressed about the way in which this matter has been allowed to drift. Probably for the first time in my life, I shall quote from the Sunday Post. Perhaps that is the unkindest cut of all to the Secretary of State. This weekend it said: Scotland stands at the crossroads. And the Scott Lithgow yard is the key.

The Sunday Post argues that if we did not save Scott Lithgow and that if we gave ground, soon Ravenscraig, Bathgate and other places would be affected. The article went on to say that it is the bounden duty of the Secretary of State to find a solution For Port Glasgow and Greenock's sake. For Scotland's sake. That is absolutely right. The Secretary of State for Scotland must not be a professional mourner who presides over the death of Scottish industry. We are facing a tragedy and a blow to our credibility as a force in engineering technology. We cannot afford to have Ministers who are prepared to sit and watch it happen. The worst aspect of this whole miserable business is not that the Secretary of State and his colleagues have failed but that they have not even tried. That is what will not do. That is what is utterly unforgivable. No doubt many people are at fault, but now we have come to the bitter bit. We have come to the crisis for the yard and for the area. All we have had is an apology for the type of fight which the crisis demands and which Scotland deserves. We believe genuinely and fiercely that, if the Government would act with energy, courage and initiative, we could save the contract, the yard, the jobs and our place in North sea industry. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to do it and to get his colleagues to do it, he should go, and go now.

Several Hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr 4:30 pm, 24th January 1984

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof the amendment on the Order Paper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."]

I do not doubt for one moment the anxiety of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) on this matter. Nor do I doubt his wish to do anything that he can to help matters be resolved now. However, he gave himself away in some of the ways in which he put his case. It is as if he has been asleep for the past two or three years while the problem has been building up.

The hon. Gentleman gave himself away in two interesting passages. First, without any qualification and without putting the matter into perspective, he described what he called the destruction of the economic base of Scotland. If he had been around and had been observing what had been going on for the past five years, he would have had a great deal more to say about that than was contained in his throw-away line. He tried to make out that the only thing that is happening in Scotland is this extremely difficult problem on the lower Clyde.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman completely devalued his case when he likened the problem to whether the rescue services should go out in the snows of Scotland. That is an utterly trivial way in which to describe what is by any standards an extremely serious problem. The hon. Gentleman demonstrated deep anxiety about the matter but showed virtually no knowledge of what has been happening and the cause of the problem. He also showed that he has virtually no knowledge of the realities of a big industry such as this when contracts are made and it is attempted to complete them on time.

I am grateful for this opportunity to put into perspective what has happened and to give as good an account as I can of what can be done from now on. The problem is of the greatest concern to everyone in the yard and people in the Inverclyde area. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman in that regard. I have been aware of, anxious about and taking action on this problem for a long time—for at least a year. By any standards, the problem is serious. It is also extremely unusual. It is not, as many others have been, a crisis that has come upon us by surprise. On the contrary, everyone involved has or should have seen this coming along a long time ago. That is why tremendous efforts have been made for a year or more to avert the crisis.

As long ago as December 1982 Britoil, the customer, had grave doubts about whether the contract would be completed. It made that clear to Scott Lithgow. Throughout 1983 intensive discussions continued, right up to chairmen level, between the customer and the supplier in an effort to sort out the difficulties. The contract had been entered into freely by two willing parties in an industrial and commercial context. I and my colleagues in the Government were also extremely worried and we thus continued to approve the funding by British Shipbuilders of the huge and growing losses on the contract to give all concerned every chance to get the contract back on the rails. At the same time, repeated and well-publicised warnings were given in the hope that those concerned at every level in Scott Lithgow would understand the nature and seriousness of the crisis and respond.

As long ago as December 1981 I wrote to the chairman of British Shipbuilders expressing my concern about the appalling absenteeism record at that time at Scott Lithgow, and last April, at a large meeting with local representatives and shop stewards from the yard, I warned that there was a danger of the yard closing if it could not improve its performance. That warning was not directed solely at the work force. It was intended to be heard and heeded by all who had an interest in the future of the yard—owners, managers and workers.

Nor was I by any means the only one who gave such warnings from spring 1983 onwards. The then chairman of British Shipbuilders, Sir Robert Atkinson, spoke out with such bluntness that he was criticised by some people for being unnecessarily frank. My hon. Friends the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry, my right hon. Friends the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson) and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and, more recently, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who has responsibility for industry and education in the Scottish Office are all clearly on record warning about this contract. Ever since he took over at British Shipbuilders this summer, Mr. Graham Day has also spoken out on the matter.

Against that background there was a deafening silence from one vitally important source—the Opposition and their trade union allies, and especially from the hon. Member for Garscadden and his colleagues. I can find no record of any warning or leadership from them at any point in this sorry tale. Indeed, the only statements that they made criticised the warnings which were so correctly being given by many others. They thus weakened the effect of such warnings and encouraged those who were determined to resist changes in working practices which were and are crucial to restoring the customer's confidence in the yard's ability to deliver the contract.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

No one suggests that such changes could be made overnight or that they would have miraculously produced the rig on time, but a commitment to sign the survival package with enthusiasm and conviction was the crucial missing factor which finally destroyed confidence.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I must press on, as many right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

Nor did the hon. Member for Garscadden utter a word to urge Scott Lithgow workers to refuse to go on strike during December 1983. That was unworthy of him. The Opposition claim to have influence in these matters. I am sure that they have, but on this occasion, whether through neglect or lack of courage, or both, they refused point blank to use that influence and they bear a heavy responsibility for aiding and abetting the disaster that has followed.

The present crisis has been brought about by Britoil's decision to cancel its contract, but Opposition Members must recognise that the future of the yard is in jeopardy not simply because of its performance on this one contract but because of late deliveries and enormous losses over many years. I realise, of course, the difficulties in the development of the advanced technology involved in the building of this semi-submersible rig for Britoil, but, however sophisticated the technology involved in such a contract, it is no good proceeding with such enterprises if they cannot be brought through into successful completion and profit. The price of learning cannot be met indefinitely. Scott Lithgow undertook to complete this contract at a certain price and by a specified date. It had no need to do so if it thought that it was unable to perform it. It has failed to do so and the customer has judged it accordingly.

If the yard had had a good record previously, there might be more to the argument that the performance of the Britoil contract should be excused because the rig concerned is so advanced technologically. But sadly the performance on other contracts—some of which, such as the BP tanker British Spirit, were very far from being on the frontier of new technology—has also been poor. For example, the loss on the British Spirit of £26·6 million actually exceeded the contract price of £23·4 million. The present rig under completion by Scott Lithgow, which is identical to the one delivered on time and within budget to the same company, is already 12 months late, and the company is paying a penalty of £20,000 per day throughout the 12-month period.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

As the Minister has gone to great lengths to tell us about the relevant contract, will he also remember that his Government awarded another contract to a Swedish firm to build prefabricated units for the Falkland Islands? We have just heard the results of that contract. Despite the fact that the Swedish company did not produce the lowest tender, the price has shot up to £130,000 for each house. The British taxpayers, whom the Minister and his hon. Friends are always going on about, will have to foot the bill. I am more concerned, representing an English constituency, to ensure that my Scottish colleagues are kept in work, rather than those in Sweden who are being kept in work by such an inflated Government contract. Will the Minister give a guarantee that the Swedish firm will be crossed off the Department's list?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise that matter with the appropriate Minister, I am sure that he will do so. If he will allow us in Scotland to consider seriously our problems, he can take his time to raise his questions elsewhere.

The Opposition demand that, notwithstanding that record, the Government should intervene in the contractual—

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

The Minister has painted a dismal picture of a yard which, until the time of the appointment of the present management, had been one of the most successful in Scotland, The Minister is a member of the Government. As failures have come about since the Government took office, with the same work force, shop stewards and junior management, but with a different top management for which the Minister is responsible, why did he not sack the top management and put in people who could work the yard? Britoil was, apparently, satisfied with what it saw in the labour force.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

The hon. Gentleman is being remarkably frank in making a comparison between the former and present managements. Perhaps he should have thought about that before he and his colleagues put through the changes that led Scott Lithgow into its present position.

The Opposition's demand is that the Government should intervene in what was a contractual, and is now a legal, dispute between British Shipbuilders and Britoil and secure the renegotiation of the contract for hull 2002. Even if the issue were only one of finance the Government would find it extremely difficult to justify further support for a yard which has already been such a heavy burden on the taxpayer, but there are other considerations, not least the attitude of the parties to the contract.

The chairman of British Shipbuilders has made it clear that renegotiation would be prejudicial to the interests of British Shipbuilders as a whole. Britoil, for its part, made clear as long ago as December 1982 its serious doubts about the rate of progress on the contract. Its present position is that, although it is ready to consider any specific proposals for completion of the rig, it has lost confidence in the commitment of Scott Lithgow to do this on satisfactory terms.

The Government are accordingly asked to bring not one but two unwilling parties to the negotiating table. I have heard the argument that, despite that, the Government have a responsibility, because they own British Shipbuilders and have a significant stake—albeit a minority one—in Britoil to knock the heads of the two parties together. I reject this suggestion entirely. The future of the contract is a matter between the two parties in which it would be quite wrong, and indeed damaging, for Ministers to try to intervene.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

I do not wish to use information obtained in private conversations, but, having talked to senior management at Britoil—and others have had a similar experience—my impression is that it would be prepared to examine a renegotiation offer. It wanted someone to come forward with proposals, and if they were financially practical it would be prepared to consider a renegotiated settlement which would enable the rig to be completed in the yard under the auspices of British Shipbuilders.

Mr. Graham Day of British Shipbuilders has said many times that his basic position is that renegotiation will cost money and he does not have any. He is in trouble with his external financing limit and has no room for manoeuvre. The Government have an interest in this matter because they own large slices of the equity—in one case, 100 per cent.—and they will have to fund the aftermath of the disaster. That is of wider public interest, which overrides a narrow view of the sanctity of contract.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I do not agree with either points made by the hon. Gentleman. I have seen the chairmen of British Shipbuilders and Britoil individually. The hon. Gentleman may or may not have noticed that the chairman of British Shipbuilders made his position quite clear, and did so for good measure on television a few days ago, when he said, having given a catalogue of what led up to the present position: Those are the reasons why I have not asked the Government for money to renegotiate this contract. I also saw the chairman of Britoil recently, whose position is exactly as I have said. Although he wishes, as we all do, to get the rig completed if possible on the lower Clyde, he does not regard as a likely option the renegotiation of the present contract under the auspices of the present parties. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. Is the Minister giving way?

Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Govan

Somebody is telling lies.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I give way to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang).

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East

The Secretary of State referred to the financial cost. Have the Government estimated the financial cost to them of the additional unemployment that would arise from the closure of Scott Lithgow, or will Scott Lithgow follow Chrysler and British Aluminium without any estimate being made of whether or not it would be cheaper for the Government to keep the yard open?

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's concern. I should not have given way, as I shall deal with that point later. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will allow me to proceed to the end of my speech as quickly as possible, as many hon. Members who have constituency interests wish to speak.

A further argument is that the Government should intervene because, it is claimed, it would be cheaper to renegotiate the contract than to cancel it. Various estimates purporting to support that conclusion have been referred to in the press and elsewhere. One feature of the estimates is that they vary enormously. I recognise the interest in the question of comparative costs, and I do not criticise those who have made an honest attempt to assess the position, but their problem is that they have no access to the essential information. Moreover, this information is, and is bound to be, commercially confidential and, what is more, is the subject of litigation between British Shipbuilders and Britoil. It would be wrong of any hon. Member to prejudice such legal action by bandying about all sorts of figures.

I have been anxious—[Interruption.] I do not know whether the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) wishes to hear any more of the argument. If he does I should be delighted, but if he does not perhaps he would allow the remainder of the House at least to hear the debate. One does not have to agree with something to be prepared to listen to it. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would reflect on that.

I have been anxious to establish the general position on costs. British Shipbuilders, which is the organisation best placed to estimate the cost of renegotiation, has assured me that, even without taking into account the potential knock-on effect on other British Shipbuilders' contracts, acceptance of cancellation is the significantly cheaper and commercially justified option.

But let us for a moment speculate on what would have happened if the Government had been foolish enough to take the advice of Opposition Members and had intervened and secured the renegotiation of the Britoil contract. For a start, that would have been to fall into the trap of encouraging the belief that the Government are always there to bail out a nationalised industry from difficulties in which it finds itself as a result of failing to produce the goods on a commercial contract entered into freely by both sides. That is the seemingly easy course which has led to so many of the problems with which we are having to grapple today.

It is not a course—[Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley will give me credit for at least looking to all sources for advice and making sure that I am fully advised from all quarters. It is not a course which appeared to commend itself to the Opposition when they were in Government. I shall quote an authority which none of them can dispute, the then Minister of State, Department of Industry, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), who said in the debate on the Shipbuilding Industry (Assistance) Bill: It would be foolish to bail out yards that are not able to meet pricing and delivery criteria."—[Official Report, 24 February 1977; Vol. 926, c. 1655.]

If that is put against the attack on the position of the Government on this contract, there could not be a more damning indictment of the two voices with which the Opposition are prepared to speak both in and out of office. There could not be a more apt description of the circumstances at Scott Lithgow. It would have meant accepting a completely open-ended financial commitment —virtually writing a blank cheque-as we had no idea how long the contract would take to complete or whether the yard would ever win a further order. It is clear from. my discussions with oil companies that the yard. as presently organised, has lost customer confidence so completely that the prospect of its obtaining any further orders is remote, to say the least.

Intervention in the commercial and legal issues currently in dispute between the two parties is not the course. The role of the Government is not to try to change the commercial realities. We must concentrate our efforts on two main tasks. The first and most immediate is that of finding a new operator who can make a new start at Port Glasgow. That task will not be easy, especially in view of the history of Scott Lithgow, but it has been achieved elsewhere on the Clyde. I and my colleagues are doing all that we can to assist the chairman of British Shipbuilders in his efforts to find a private buyer. It is a task on which the chairman of British Shipbuilders has already embarked and which British Shipbuilders, as owner of the assets, is best placed to undertake. My colleagues and I are doing all that we can to assist.

We are agreed on the importance of maintaining our skills and the capacity of the yard in the offshore business, but it must be a profit-making operation. That will require a major change in attitudes, in methods of work and in management. Obviously, the attitude of the customer for the partly completed rig is immensely important to any takeover operation. It is too early to speculate on the outcome or the attitude of particular companies which might be interested in taking over the Scott Lithgow facilities and completing the Britoil contract, but I recognise the urgency of the position.

Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Glasgow Hillhead

When the Secretary of State talks about a new start at Port Glasgow, does he envisage that being done, under whatever ownership, with the rig completed or abandoned? Does he recognise that if the rig is abandoned all the learning—admittedly very expensive learning, with many mistakes on both sides—will be thrown away and the new start will begin against a background of failure? Unless he can put forward a proposal under which the rig will be completed, under whatever organisation, he owes the House the duty to give more a detailed refutation of the figures which have attracted great publicity and which were put forward by a reputable economic source in Glasgow.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's principal point, to which I can respond positively. We envisage that the best prospect of getting some new operation under way is that it should start with the completion of the present rig. If a new operation can gain a track record for itself by successfully completing the rig, that is the best way for the long-term future. But we must recognise that even if a new operator can be found there will still be significant job losses.

That brings me to our important second task. As I have made clear, I am ready to do all that I can to help the local Inverclyde economy. I have already had discussion with the chairman and chief executive of the Scottish Development Agency. In response to an invitation from Inverclyde district council, the Scottish Development Agency has already, with my support, commissioned consultants to examine the prospects for the area and, in the light of their report, I shall discuss with local interests what remedial action might be taken.

The Government are not prepared to intervene in the dispute between British Shipbuilders and Britoil over the future of the contract, but we accept a responsibility to help in the effort to find a new operator for the yard and to assist the regeneration of the local Inverclyde economy. Irrespective of that, however, as long as hope remains of putting the rig into production, again under a new owner or new management or both, we shall certainly do all we can to facilitate such a deal.

The Government believe that it is very important for the United Kingdom to maintain and develop further our capability in the offshore construction industry, and we certainly do not believe that, as a country with a large presence of the world's highest technology industries, there can be any question of the United Kingdom opting out of the world market for technologically advanced rigs because of some basic deficiency in our skills. I simply do not accept that, when properly motivated and led, workers on the lower Clyde cannot compete successfully with those in any other part of the world.

I and my colleagues in the Government will, as I say, be doing all in our power to assist, but there is a vital element of help which we need from all concerned on the lower Clyde. We need a clear and unequivocal commitment from all who wish to form the work force for this industry in the future. We need an open agreement for new work practices, for flexible shift working and for total co-operation with what will have to be a new and dynamic management team. We need, too, an assurance of no disputes in any circumstances without full use of agreed procedures, and a joint commitment to the customer by all concerned that the work will be delivered on time.

Only in that way can the essential confidence of customers, both present and future, be rebuilt. I am sure that the vast majority of those who work on the lower Clyde would be only too willing to give such undertakings and that they undoubtedly have the skills, when properly used, to out-perform anyone in the world in that field.

For those reasons I ask the House to accept the amendment.

Mr. Bruce Milan:

We have just heard a lamentable speech from the Secretary of State, notably full of humbug and hyprocrisy — even by his standards. The fact is that, as events have developed during the past two or three months, it has become increasingly clear that British Shipbuilders decided several months ago that it would close the Scott Lithgow yard, and the Secretary of State and other Ministers have stood back and allowed that to happen. They have connived, and are conniving, at the closure of the yard, and nothing the Secretary of State has said in the latter part of his speech changes that one little bit.

The excuse was to be a very simple one. It was all to be blamed on the work force: the work force had been lazy, it had not co-operated with the management, and the fault for the closure was to be placed squarely on its shoulders. Unfortunately for the Government, it has not turned out to be as easy as that because, as more facts have become available about the history of Scott Lithgow and the history of this contract, it has become crystal clear that the responsibility for the present mess can be laid in no way exclusively on the shoulders of the work force at Scott Lithgow, and the Government know that.

The work force at one time used to be held up by Conservative Members as an example to workers in other shipyards in other parts of Scotland. It is not true, as Ministers have tried to portray, that the yard has made massive losses over a period of 10 years. Nor is it true that the responsibility for the delay in this contract rests exclusively with the work force. There is some responsibility on the purchaser, Britoil — or, more accurately, Odeco—in this matter in terms of design changes and difficulties in getting decisions about the changes. There is undoubtedly a major responsibility on the management of British Shipbuilders for negotiating the contract initially at the price and on the time scale that it did, given the high technology of the contract. There is, of course, some responsibility on the work force but, as I have said, nothing like the kind of responsibility that the Secretary of State has tried previously, and even today, to place on its shoulders.

The Secretary of State's speech today has taken no account of the recent considerable improvements in productivity in the yard. It has taken no account of the statement by the shop stewards the other day that they are prepared to accept the flexibility arrangements. It has taken no account of the recent statements by the new management of Scott Lithgow that the facilities are first-class and that, given a little opportunity, within months this could be turned into a first-class yard able to compete with any other yard in any other part of the world.

It has become a matter of public recognition in the last few weeks that this is an area of offshore technology that is very demanding, and in which it is important for the country to remain, if anything like the full advantages of North sea oil are to be gained. It has also become clear—and I shall return to this in more detail later—that the costs of cancelling the contract and closing the yard are almost certainly considerably higher than the costs of continuing with the rig and renegotiating the contract.

For those reasons, although the public reaction in Scotland at the beginning of this debacle was rather unsympathetic to the Scott Lithgow work force in particular, I believe there is now the strongest public opinion in Scotland in favour of renegotiation of the contract and completion of the rig at the Scott Lithgow yard. There is now strong public condemnation in Scotland of the inactivity and the unwillingness of the Government to bring that about.

The choice now is between closure and carrying on with the contract and selling off the yard. I shall say something about each of these in turn. On the question of closure, I dare say that, if the Member for the constituency, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) is called later in the debate, as I hope he will be, he will be able to explain the devastating social and economic consequences to the area of closure taking place. This is not just an ordinary closure on a large scale. The work force is concentrated in a particular community, and the effects on that community, which is already devastated by unemployment, would be horrific and catastrophic. It is a disgrace that the Government amendment does not even recognise the social consequences of closure in the area.

Turning to the question of continuation of the contract, I maintain that there has been distortion of the view of Britoil, and that distortion was carried on by the Secretary of State in his speech. He gave the impression that Britoil was not willing to renegotiate the contract with British Shipbuilders. That is not true. I have had it said privately to me, although it has been said also on the public record, by Mr. Ford and Mr. Clark of Britoil that they are anxious to renegotiate the contract with British Shipbuilders. Either they are telling lies, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or someone else is telling lies. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] I say to the right hon. Gentleman in the most categoric terms that Britoil is willing to renegotiate the contract with British Shipbuilders, and the only thing preventing that is the inactivity of the Government and the unwillingness of British Shipbuilders. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer".] Although the Secretary of State would not give way to me, I shall give way to him, if he wants, but he is sitting on his backside just as he is sitting in inactivity and allowing the catastrophe to happen.

Photo of Mr George Younger Mr George Younger , Ayr

I shall try to respond to the right hon. Gentleman. He has been trying to say that Britoil is prepared to revive the present contract. That is not what he said, but it is the impression that he tried to give. Of course Britoil—and I made this clear in my speech—is anxious to get the rig completed, and would be delighted to make a new contract to get that done on the lower Clyde. I made that perfectly clear in my speech, and the right hon. Gentleman has been long enough in the House to know that.

Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Govan

The right hon. Gentleman has not contradicted what I have said and, thererefore, what he said earlier in the debate is a complete distortion of the truth, and I stand by that.

British Shipbuilders has taken the formal view that it could still complete the contract on time plus the 300 extra days. I say again categorically that, when British Shipbuilders says that, it does not believe a word of it. British Shipbuilders knows very well that it cannot complete the contract on time plus the 300 extra days. If British Shipbuilders believes that to be some kind of fall—back position in the hope that, should it come to legal action, it will manage to avoid paying back to Britoil the £40 million that it has already received from Britoil, it is advancing a hopeless proposition. It is important to get this on the record because it is relevant to the question of the comparative costs of carrying on with the contract, on the one hand, and seeing it cancelled, on the other. I say in categoric terms that the House has been told by the Government on more than one occasion that, if the contract is cancelled, the £40 million will have to be paid back to Britoil.

What we are discussing here is public money. This is not British Shipbuilders' money but ultimately Government and taxpayers' money. It is scandalous that the Government, who are supposed to look after the public purse, have not taken the slightest step to bring Britoil and British Shipbuilders together. The comparative costs of cancellation as against continuation of the contract have not even been considered by the Government. As it made clear in the letter of the Secretary of State only yesterday, the Government have not even looked into the comparative costs. The Government, who are supposed to be concerned with public expenditure, have not even looked at the comparative costs of continuation as against cancellation of the contract and Scott Lithgow facing almost certain closure, although they will pay the bill. The Secretary of State's letter has the impertinence to suggest that the matter might be looked at by the Select Committee. If it can be looked at by that Committee, it can be locked at by the Government, and it should have been looked at by them long before now.

I have said previously in the House that, while I am not privy to confidential information, on any reasonable judgment of the situation, based on what is publicly known, it would almost certainly cost more for the contract to be cancelled than to carry it on. Those who have studied the matter and who have a certain amount of information, including Professor Pickett and the Engineers and Management Association, have come to that conclusion. I do not know whether their conclusions are accurate, but we should not need to rely on such sources to have the figures brought out. They should be provided by the Government. Either the Government have the figures and are not telling us, in which case they are treating the House dishonestly, or they have not even bothered to get the figures. I hope that that point will be answered when the Minister replies.

In any case, the matter goes beyond crude cost calculations on a short-term basis. Those of us who represent Scottish industrial constituencies know to our cost that, given redundancy and closure, there is a continuing, not just a short-term, cost. When Linwood was closed down, unemployment benefit was not paid for a few months or a year. It is having to be paid for years afterwards. We have lost manufacturing capacity in the last four years at an unprecedented rate, and that is placing on the economy and taxpayer in financial and other terms a huge burden.

Nor, in terms of crude cost calculations, is the fact taken into account that once capacity is lost, it is never re-established. Indeed, its place is taken not by competing British companies but—this has happened in many cases and will happen in this case—by foreign companies. Scott Lithgow's place will be taken by foreign yards rather than by competing British yards. In other words, the Government are selling jobs in Scotland in favour of jobs overseas—in Korea or elsewhere.

For all those reasons, renegotiation would be the cheapest, most obvious and most direct way of saving both the contract and the Scott Lithgow yard as a whole. To say, as the Government say in the amendment, that they do not interfere in industrial decisions, when they have just increased electricity prices against the wishes of the Electricity Council—and only yesterday we were told that they had intervened even in the sale of the Gleneagles hotel—is humbug and hypocrisy.

In recent days there has been mention of "another buyer" for the Scott Lithgow yard. Indeed, finding a buyer is an important part of Government policy. Although it is not even mentioned in the amendment, we are meant to put all our hopes on finding that buyer. It is a commentary on the so-called patriotic party that while the Secretary of State will not intervene to bring Britoil and British Shipbuilders together, he has sent civil servants scuttling off to Sweden to try to sell off the facility to foreign interests.

We also have the spectacle of Trafalgar House inspecting the yard and being a possible purchaser, arid Trafalgar House is the parent company of Cementation Limited, which is well favoured by the Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] Despite the protestations of Conservative Members, it happens to be a fact. Lord Matthews does not appear to me to be some sort of fairy godmother who will come in and rescue Scott Lithgow and the jobs there. If we have something to sell at Scott Lithgow, that is an argument for renegotiation and carrying on with the work that is already being done there.

Nor has it been made clear, in response to the intervention of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), whether the Government will sell the yard on the basis that the contract is completed there or on the basis that it is completed somewhere else. It is absolutely clear, however, that nobody will buy the yard at his expense. It will be at the expense of the public. Anybody with experience of liquidations, bankruptcies and closures — and this Government have more than most—is aware that prospective buyers come in on the basis of picking up property at the cheapest possible price. We can be sure that if anybody comes in to buy the facilities at Scott Lithgow, it will be done ultimately at the expense not of Britoil—why should it be at its expense? — and not at the expense of British Shipbuilders, although that would only be the Government in another hat, but at the expense of the Government.

It cannot be done unless the Government have the cooperation of British Shipbuilders and Britoil. They are not willing to bring those two parties together to save the contract, but they will be willing to bring them together to see that the yard is sold off, perhaps to foreign interests. What a commentary on their industrial policy.

The Government's negotiating position will be the weakest imaginable, particularly as even this afternoon the Secretary of State again lambasted the work force and management at the yard. How can he expect to sell a facility of this kind at a reasonable price when he makes the sort of speech that he made today?

Even at this late stage the only way to have a reasonable prospect of saving the contract and the jobs at Scott Lithgow is to have renegotiation between British Shipbuilders and Britoil. If the Government refuse to intervene to bring that about, they will be guilty of a betrayal of Scottish interests, to be added to all the other betrayals of Scottish and United Kingdom interests that we have suffered under the Conservatives and the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Photo of Mrs Anna McCurley Mrs Anna McCurley , Renfrew West and Inverclyde 5:17 pm, 24th January 1984

It is with a sense of regret and disappointment that I cannot support the Government in the amendment. Nor can I support the ravings of embittered and embattled Opposition Members whose total contribution to the solution of the problems of Scott Lithgow so far has been to growl over the real issues and exacerbate some of the problems that we have been discussing in relation to the work force, problems that would never have occurred had they intervened in the past.

Lest any minorities think that they have converted me, let me disabuse them immediately, for until now they have lain like useless flabby jellyfish ready to sting those prepared to put their toes into the political waters and fight. The minority groups have done absolutely nothing until now. Indeed, their only remedy for the situation in Greenock and Port Glasgow was to hold a meeting, at which they gave themselves a pat on the back, but they have no interest in what is happening in Inverclyde.

Alas, however, the Government amendment is unhelpful and offers nothing to the people of Inverclyde. I sometimes suspect when I see amendments such as this that they come not from the Scottish Office but from somewhere slightly more remote, because this one offers not one crumb of comfort to the people in the difficult circumstances that we are having to endure in Inverclyde.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland for the interest that he has taken in the area, and I am pleased that the Scottish Development Agency will investigate the potential of Inverclyde, but that is a long-term idea and perhaps 10 or 20 years will pass before anything comes out of it. That is 10 or 20 years away from the loss of jobs that we face immediately.

This is all sad because I believe that the present Government act in the best interests of the British people, and I understand their desire to keep Government influence out of business. What I am looking for now, which I do not see but hope will come out of this debate, is a speedy resolution of the problems of Inverclyde. If this had been happening and boiling up in the Wash over the past few years rather than in Inverclyde, somthing might have been done about it more quickly. The Government have to look at the enormous potential that the lower Clyde has to offer. The Times said of Scott Lithgow: Lame duck may yet lay a golden egg.

For many years we have suffered a strange sickness in this country, which meant that we were prepared to cave in to our competitors and let them have a clear field. The Government were reversing this trend, especially with their support for the new technology. However, it is a myth to suggest that Scott Lithgow is an archaic, creaking and inefficient shipyard. I know that it has had its difficulties and that it has suffered because of the recession and has found it hard to compete with south-east Asia and Korea. The galling thing for us is that the people who are now working as our competitors were trained at Lithgow's and Scott's. We taught them how to be our competitors.

Scott Lithgow is now at the forefront of the new hydrocarbon technologies. The way that it got there is nothing short of a miracle, considering the appalling lack of understanding about that industry that seems to pervade every level.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

Including the hon. Member.

Photo of Mrs Anna McCurley Mrs Anna McCurley , Renfrew West and Inverclyde

Are we to hand over this hard-earned skill for the benefit of our competitors without a fight? Scott Lithgow is no stranger to technology success in the offshore market. The yard has an extensive product range, including drill ships, a seabed operations vessel and an emergency support vessel. Until 1980, Scott Lithgow had developed involvement in the offshore market, beginning with the construction of two dynamically positioned drill ships, the Ben Ocean Lancer and the Pacnorse I. Both vessels were designed for and have operated in waters beyond the continental shelf — that is to say, at the depth below the capability of the then generation of drill rigs. The construction of these vessels represented a major step forward for Scott Lithgow in that it gained entry into the technology of dynamic positioning.

Rapid development followed after this, as is shown by the Ministry of Defence seabed operation vessel and the Iolair, the emergency support vessel built for and operated by Shell. That order was followed by an order for a drill rig for BP Sedco, the rig 2001, and latterly the order for the dynamically positioned drill ship for Lloyds Leasing, the 2002. Scott Lithgow is now working at the foremost frontiers of technology. The rig has been designed to operate in depths of water normally thought to be the exclusive province of drill ships. This rig can be said to represent the first of the third generation of offshore development vessels, the first encompassing the jack-up rigs and the second drill ships and semi-submersible rigs such as the 2001.

Comparison has been made between the semi-submersible rig built in South Korea and the 2002 contract, but the Benrioch was completed in 1983 and is now working in New Zealand. It is wrong, however, to compare this rig with the 2002. The Benrioch represents a typical second generation rig. It is not dynamically positionable and is designed to operate at depths of only 1,500 ft.

The Government should be clear about the past blunders at all levels before their excessive condemnation of Scott Lithgow's work force. After all, it has agreed to the survival plan. However, I wish that the work force had agreed to that survival plan in the summer, when the workers were urged to do so by this Government, for there would now be far more room for manoeuvre.

It is sad to look back on the lower Clyde and see what has happened in the years before and since nationalisation. We have heard about £165 million that has been squandered, but in the four years before nationalisation the only loss on the lower Clyde was £2·4 million, and we were going into profitability. Then nationalisation came along and destroyed our industry. It is exceptionally sad that the Secretary of State should have fallen for the line about the paddy fields. I realise that the position is difficult, and I hope that he will fight for us with the force with which he has fought for other industries.

I have never asked the Government for more direct intervention. I have understood their argument about the Britoil contract and about the precedent that would be established. All I am asking today is for a solution to the problem that will enable the rig to be completed on the lower Clyde, and to find that solution fast. I do not want the same old merry-go-round to take place. That would happen if we were to leave the status quo and renegotiate the contract. The technology is bought and paid for and we have the capability on the lower Clyde.

Let us be clear about the effect on the area. My constituency has a smaller proportion of the work force than that of the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman). Gourock is also involved, as are Wemyss bay, Langbank and Bishopton and all round west Inverclyde. It is not just the white and blue collar workers in the yard who will be affected but the people who have businesses in the towns in this circumscribed area. The livelihoods of these people are at stake, not just the livelihoods of the 4,500 workers at Scott Lithgow. There are the small businesses, the subsidiary companies, the house values and prices, all of which are most important to the people in my constituency. This is why I say what I am saying today. The effect of the closure of Scott Lithgow would be devastation in the area. Some 90 per cent. of the work force comes from Gourock and Greenock and Port Glasgow and there would 40 per cent. unemployment.

Before any hon. Member who does not know the area speaks about it, I point out that the people that I and the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow represent and whom we are often criticising belong to the same families as the people who work in IBM and National Semi-Conductor and who have a marvellous work record. They are commended the world over. The west of Scotland is becoming part and parcel of the new Silicon Valley technological era because of the work forces in places such as Greenock and Port Glasgow.

We must remember that we owe that area something. During the war, the men — some of whom, or their families, are still in the shipyards—who worked in that shipyard produced a ship every 21 days. We needed their help then, and they need our help now. The cost of failure of Scott Lithgow to the taxpayer is uncertain. The cost of supporting the area is incalculable. Also uncertain is the cost to the United Kingdom of losing the capacity for this high technology in the lower Clyde. Speed of action is the cost saver. The loss of expertise would be an appalling waste. The loss of jobs is also an appalling waste. No one wants to employ the unemployed because, after a certain time, after they have wound down they are not much use. They must be kept in work, otherwise they lose their expertise after a certain time.

What about the solutions? I was a schoolteacher, and I have no experience of big business or industry, but I know that if a school has a good headmaster and a good teaching staff it is disciplined and well run. I believe that that analogy can be applied to industry. So I want a good management and a good work force at Scott Lithgow. Personally, I should like to see Scott Lithgow taken out of British Shipbuilders, because internationally British Shipbuilders is bad news. It is offering no more tenders, and no more orders are on the books.

I should support the Secretary of State for Scotland in an attempt to find a buyer who can complete the rig. However, we must be realistic. Only a limited part of the work force would be involved in the new undertaking, and I am interested in the surplus that would not be involved in that undertaking. It would represent a considerable number of jobs on the lower Clyde. I have asked time and again that we should reconsider the work that we were exceptionally good at and that we completed on time—defence work. The yard can have a future if it is split into the oil-related sector and the conventional sector. Moreover, I see a role here for the SDA, because we need to get other operators into the area, even if only in subcontracting work or in work on components for other parts of the shipbuilding industry.

Essentially, we are talking about this rig. It must be completed. A buyer must be found. The rig must be completed on the lower Clyde. In my opinion, there is a huge future in Inverclyde for the new technologies. It is the only yard in the world that is capable of doing that work at present. We hold the key to Britain's involvement in offshore technology.

May I mention briefly some of the words that were spoken by two of the experts who know the lower Clyde and understand what the Clyde can offer the world. Until four years ago, Mr. Ross Belch was the managing director of Scott Lithgow. He said: Given the required leadership from management and the necessary co-operation from the workforce, Scott Lithgow and those who work in its establishment could recover their former glory.I have known the men in the shipyards and the people of Greenock and Port Glasgow since the war. They must now have built up a considerable offshore expertise and it would be tragic if this were lost". Mr. Willem Kooymans said: After four months we have made a lot of progress, but unfortunately the performance improvements have not been brought to light.We have improved in welding by at least 100 per cent. in quality and quantity.If we get the flexibility that we need we will have a learning curve. If we have that flexibility we can make this a first-class offshore yard in three months". I remind the work force at Scott Lithgow of those words. In any event, the men there should turn away from their old political masters and think for themselves for a change. After all, their political masters think for themselves alone. One need only think of what happens in other places, where they end up with a job, and the people who run outfits into the ground end up with jobs. They even end up compering television programmes.

Therefore, I ask the work force to accept the challenge of the new order and give us what we are asking for. We are fighting for those men. They have more friends than they realise. I ask them to do everyone in Scotland a favour and make us proud of them again.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow 5:36 pm, 24th January 1984

I agree with the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) that it is essential for the rig to be completed on the lower Clyde. I emphasise that there is no other yard in the United Kingdom that could build the rig and that at present there is no other offshore yard in the world that is capable of building it. However—here I differ from the hon. Lady—there is an alternative solution, and it is to have the contract renegotiated. That would allow Scott Lithgow to become the market leader in this sector of the international offshore engineering industry. So let us have the rig built on the lower Clyde, and by the present management and the present work force. Since I was elected to this place, I have worked hard with both the management and the work force there in an attempt—modest perhaps, marginal perhaps—to bring about changes.

The case against the Government and British Shipbuilders in this dreadful and sorry affair is a sombre and critical one. It is evident that it would be much more costly to the public purse and the taxpayer to close Scott Lithgow than to renegotiate the Britoil contract. The shipbuilders managers' association argued that it would be five times as costly to close the yard as to renegotiate the contract. I have no doubt that Ministers will dismiss the union's argument, claiming perhaps that it is based on questionable assumptions and disputable facts. However, Ministers appear—we have seen and heard evidence of it this afternoon—somewhat reluctant to produce figures to support their assessment of the circumstances surrounding Scott Lithgow. I have had two meetings with the directors of Britoil, and they are of the firm opinion that they are willing to renegotiate the contract, but they are unwilling to subsidise British Shipbuilders and the Government.

First, I want to deal with the social consequences of closure at this yard. Closure would inflict lasting damage on the whole of Inverclyde. Such social consequences would be catastrophic for the whole area. Hon. Members should be made aware that this is not just another plant closure. This is not an ailing shipyard experiencing irrevocable decline. It is unique and without precedent. Whilst it is somewhat difficult to make comparisons with closures elsewhere in Scotland, the fact is that 94 per cent., not 90 per cent., of the workers in Scott Lithgow live within the Inverclyde district; only 220 of them live outside Inverclyde. That means that closure would have a massive and profound impact upon the community.

A similar number of redundancies resulted from the demise of Talbot at Linwood, but in that sad case the work force was dispersed more widely over Paisley, Barrhead, Glasgow, north Ayrshire and Clydebank as well as Greenock and Port Glasgow. Here the impact would be dreadful because the work force is confined so narrowly to Inverclyde.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

My hon. Friend is right: closure would be horrendous for the lower reaches of the Clyde. It would be even worse precisely because the closure of Talbot has produced much unemployment in the area.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. Of course, many of the former Talbot employees are still unemployed. What is so disturbing is the fact that adult male unemployment in the area is already more than 20 per cent. The closure of this yard would almost double that. Redundancies of younger members of the work force would occur at a time when there is very high unemployment among young people. In Port Glasgow youth unemployment is 80 per cent.

An aspect of unemployment that is often ignored, or at best underestimated, is the effect on the families of the unemployed. As 64 per cent. of the work force is aged under 40, it can reasonably be assumed that 2,300 to 2,500 children would be affected directly by closure of the yard. Again, the unemployment figure conceals the real effect of unemployment; it should be multiplied by a factor of about three to include the families. Already in my constituency over 3,000 children receive free dinners.

Because of the concentrated nature of the labour market in Inverclyde, the regional employment trends—perhaps I should say unemployment trends — show that the proportion of the local population who would become dependent on supplementary benefit over the next 12 to 18 months would increase greatly and would be much higher than in other areas, even within Strathclyde.

On top of the social case there is a genuine industrial case to be made for the renegotiation of the contract and the retention of Scott Lithgow. Before commenting on that, I should like to deal with some of the falsehoods, misrepresentations and false descriptions of the recent history of the company and its much-maligned management and work force. Last year the chairman of British Shipbuilders criticised the poor delivery record of Scott Lithgow. A few days later, in reply, Scott Lithgow published a list of nine contracts that had been completed in time over the same period. We did not hear about those from Sir Robert Atkinson, we heard only his complaints. I am pleased that he seems to have undergone a change in his attitude to Scott Lithgow, its management and work force.

The Prime Minister recently criticised the work force. She talked about the record of the yard being abysmal. That ill-informed view is certainly not shared by the Ministry of Defence. The Royal Navy has consistently praised the fine workmanship of the yard. The most recent testimonial concerned the refit of the submarine HMS Orpheus in 1982. I quote from a letter received by Scott Lithgow from the Royal Navy: Without exception all who have seen the Orpheus this week have been impressed by the final appearance. She will be a fitting advertisement to Scott Lithgow's capabilities for a long time to come. Despite that fine display of customer confidence, the Conservative Government withdrew naval work from Scott Lithgow —a political decision and nothing to do with customer confidence.

Following, for some of us, the eagerly awaited retirement of Sir Robert Atkinson, the Government brought in a new chairman, Mr. Day. Some people on the lower Clyde call him the new hit man flown in from Toronto; I think he is from Halifax in Nova Scotia. A good deal of publicity was given to Mr. Day's gross observation that boys from the farms in South Korea had built on time a rig similar to the Britoil 2002 rig. The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde has dealt, rightly, with that criticism of Scott Lithgow. In comparison with the Britoil 2002 rig, the Korean rig is a primitive structure.

Equally repugnant is the malign criticism of poor performance, low-quality work and bad industrial relations which has been used to deflect public support, which is growing in Scotland, and I hope throughout the whole of mainland Britain, for both management and work force in Scott Lithgow.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

No; this is too important a debate.

That criticism was referred to in a recent report published by officials of Strathclyde regional council: The character assassination of local management and workforce emanating from a number of sources would seem difficult to justify in circumstances in which a number of performance indicators suggest the existence of a progressive and adaptive workforce". Since early 1982 industrial relations at Scott Lithgow have improved dramatically. In regard to working days lost, disputes, absenteeism, reportable accidents and overtime worked, there have been significant improvements and changes. In the period October to December 1983 there was an improvement of approximately 45 per cent. in productivity and output.

A great deal of false information has been generated by the Government and British Shipbuilders about the refusal of the shop stewards to sign the management's survival plan published in July. Again, the truth is somewhat different. In late September the shop stewards produced their own document entitled "Continuity and change at Scott Lithgow", which outlined the kind of job flexibility they believed would be acceptable to their members. Greenock chamber of commerce said that there was not a great deal of difference between the two sides. I have some experience of shipyard industrial relations. I believe that, given the usual accommodations, agreement would have been reached if the local negotiations had not been overtaken by national negotiations. There was definitely a change in attitude on the part of the work force and the management, and both Government and British Shipbuilders are guilty of concealing and distorting evidence to further their case against Scott Lithgow.

Only two hours ago, I received a telephone call from a senior executive of an international oil company. He told me that he is livid with British Shipbuilders. He is most anxious to recruit "lots of workers" — that was his phrase—from Scott Lithgow because of their experience and knowledge. It seems that he is being deflected by British Shipbuilders, which claims that the employees at Scott Lithgow are a company asset. I have believed that ever since I became the parliamentary candidate at Greenock and Port Glasgow, let alone its Member.

The industrial case is a powerful one. The rig in question puts Scott Lithgow. with its recent construction programme, on the frontiers of maritime technology. It is not an ailing shipyard which is undergoing continuing and irrevocable decline. Scott Lithgow is at the forefront of this form of maritime technology.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

It is surely time for the Government to promote further the interests of both the shipbuilding industry and the offshore engineering industry. I am reminded of two reports which I saw in the press recently, one in the Daily Telegraph of 18 December. It claimed that the Cabinet had decided that merchant shipbuilding would no longer be regarded as an indispensable strategic industry. That explains to some extent the Government's role. If that is right, it is a policy that contrasts starkly with the position of the South Korean Government, who believe that the shipbuilding and offshore engineering industries are important strategic industries. We have, of course, heard many comparisons drawn between Britain and South Korea.

The Government should follow the lead, despite its confused nature, of Sir Robert Atkinson. In this morning's edition of the Financial Times he states: The cancellation of the Britoil rig should not be allowed to finalise. It will cause yard closure, probably £200 million or more in cancellation and associated charges; it will damage the Scottish economy and decimate the Lower Clyde. It will also damage Britain's reputation and manufacturing ability, cause the loss of 5,000 jobs and the skills that go with it. Those engaged in the offshore oil industry are ready to pick up the pieces.

Scott Lithgow is crucial to Greenock and Port Glasgow, and to the rest of Scotland and the whole United Kingdom. On behalf of my constituents and, I believe the people of Scotland, I ask the Secretary of State to follow Sir Robert Atkinson's laudable example, to change his mind and ensure that the Britoil contract is renegotiated.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden 5:55 pm, 24th January 1984

I am glad to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate. Although I have very few constituents who are employed by Scott Lithgow

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

What experience does the hon. Gentleman have of these matters?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are here to discuss an important issue. If he chooses to chirp on like a canary, I suggest that he does so outside the Chamber. I have a number of constituents whose jobs and businesses depend upon subcontract work from Scott Lithgow.

My first encounter with the remarkable world of offshore technology was about four and a half years ago when a client of mine — at that time I was in professional practice —came to Scotland and acquired the Marathon shipyard. I was deeply involved in the professional negotiations, and I take great pride, along with all the others who were involved in them, in having watched a remarkable transformation on the upper Clyde. Marathon was a loss-making, partly state-owned concern. It was inefficient and unproductive and it has been transformed into a profitable yard.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

The evidence is available at Companies House if Labour Members want to read the information. It is profitable, efficient and productive. The work force adopted flexible working years ago, not merely months ago. The evidence is there for all to see.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Two important lessons were learnt from my association with the upper Clyde.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

UIE does not have a full order book because it was undercut by a BS yard, which took the accommodation jack-up rig away from it. I think the evidence will show in the fullness of time that UIE could have completed that rig far more satisfactorily than Cammell Laird, but I hazard that as a personal opinion.

I learnt two important lessons from my involvement with the upper Clyde. The first was that commercial confidence was crucial. Secondly, I learnt that there must be efficient project management so that work can be completed on time and of a quality that a customer will accept. It is a highly demanding market, requiring skills and operational efficiency which were, perhaps, not the order of the day with merchant shipbuilders. At a time when the yards are producing work which is literally at the frontiers of technology, the learning curve associated with the work is enormously important.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I shall allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene as he has been making so much noise up to now.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

What is the hon. Gentleman's actual experience and knowledge of the merchant shipbuilding industry in this country?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

That is an irrelevant, unsatisfactory and pathetic point. I do not have that much experience of merchant shipbuilding, but I have experience of advising a yard which was a merchant shipbuilder and which made a successful transformation to the offshore technology market. I advised the yard on a close professional basis. The people in that company, whose opinions I respect, have left me in no doubt about the demanding requirements of the offshore market and the comparison that they have been able to make between that and the merchant shipbuilding world.

As a Scotsman, I share the sense of disappointment and desperation which many in Scotland feel now that the Britoil contract is in such profound difficulties. In Scotland we have almost become inured to the sight of decaying traditional industries. It was with a great sense of hope and expectation that the Scottish people looked forward to the great skills of the lower Clyde being transformed into an offshore high technology yard, and we all share a sense of disappointment that what should have been a reality has become a nightmare and not even a dream.

Whatever our feelings about the fate of the contract and the opportunities which, sadly, have not been grasped, no one can deny that the commercial confidence that is so essential to the yard's future has been seriously damaged, or perhaps destroyed. The truth of this lies in the fact that Scott Lithgow is not on the tender list of major oil companies which put work around. That is not the fault of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

The Opposition may be making a great deal of noise about my right hon. Friend's responsibilities, but it is emphatically not his responsibility that there is a crisis of commercial confidence in the yard. He alone, of all the Scottish politicians, has been issuing warning of the consequences if the work force and the management at Greenock do not change their ways. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Were those Opposition Members who now say "Oh" issuing warning months ago that problems were in store and that the day of reckoning was to come? They are knowledgeable people whose silence is astounding.

I know that it is fashionable to knock the work force, but no one can overlook its shortcomings or the appalling financial results to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred earlier this afternoon. The delay in accepting flexible working cannot have inspired confidence in actual or prospective customers when the need for confidence was crucial.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I shall allow the hon. Gentleman to intervene in a minute.

I accept that recently there have been considerable improvements in the performance of the work force in that yard, but, in fairness, we must look at the levels against which that improvement in performance has been measured and regret the absentee rates and lack of productivity. In such a yard the conventional yardstick for the measurement of productivity in welding terms owes perhaps not a little to the management's failure to institute proper training procedures in the exacting standards demanded by the offshore market.

It would be unreasonable to attribute all, or the major part, of the blame to the work force. What about the responsibility of the management and the directors of British Shipbuilders? They were given the responsibility of operating this business, including all its subsidiaries. It appears that from the word go the yard and the contract were weak on project management, and that is not a responsibility of the work force.

Although it was a basic Odeco design, much of the design work had to be done at Scott Lithgow. Yet, why has the yard been denied the computer-assisted design facility essential for such work? This afternoon we heard that the contract was negotiated at British Shipbuilders board level, and its terms now look to have been a triumph of optimism over realism. I believe that there is acceptance on both sides of the House that the contract provides for the most technically advanced drilling vessel ever constructed, and the directors of British Shipbuilders, who, in the final analysis, must carry the can, ought to have been aware that almost certainly there would be design problems and technical difficulties to overcome when the frontiers of technology — I use that word advisedly — were being extended. When commercial confidence is critical in offshore technology, why did the former chairman of British Shipbuilders trumpet internationally the yard's failures and problems?

I shall not try to score political points, because I do not believe that we should be doing that this afternoon, but the problems of the Scott Lithgow yard have in no way been solved by nationalisation. I would go so far as to say that had there not been nationalisation in 1977—for which all Opposition Members presumably voted—I doubt that the problems of Scott Lithgow would exist in their present form.

The broad spectrum of responsible opinion in Scotland is desperately anxious that the contract at Greenock should be completed. If half a platform and all its parts were towed off ignominously to Korea or some other foreign shipyard—if a yard capable of executing this contract exists — there would be a loss of the development expertise and experience that has been painfully and expensively gained. The damage and the loss of reputation that would follow would not only adversely affect Scott Lithgow but would cast a shadow over the offshore yards in the United Kingdom, many of which have impressive records in productivity and efficiency.

I could not in any circumstances support the Opposition's sterile solution of insisting that the Government should intervene and bail out the contract. Even if the Government did so, what would be the prospect for Scott Lithgow when the major oil firms seem unwilling to place any further business in its way? British Shipbuilders, which is dragging Scott Lithgow down with it, has lost credibility. Moreover, British Shipbuilders has given me, and perhaps many other people, the impression of wishing to wash its hands of Scott Lithgow. The Opposition's argument that, because of social and other costs, it would be cheaper to support the yard rather than let it go is insidious.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline West

What is the hon. Gentleman's solution?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I shall come to my solution presently.

The Opposition's argument could be used to justify bailing out every enterprise which fails because it does not satisfy the market. That is not an argument which commends itself to me or to any reasonable right-thinking person. The only practical solution is that the yard should be acquired by an enterprise or a consortium—preferably from the United Kingdom, but I would not rule out foreigners—which has experience and expertise in platform construction and credibility in the market place as an efficient and able project manager. That enterprise or consortium would need to have the resources necessary to finance the enormously expensive work.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline West

The hon. Gentleman has spent some time suggesting that there is a solution which might commend itself to him and other Conservative Members. Will he enlighten the House a little further by saying from where the new consortium would obtain a cash flow and an idea of its profitability? Would such an enterprise be willing to enter into that project without Britoil's approval and/or being underwritten by the Government? If that is the case, how does that differ from actions within the present orbit of operations?

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

I shall make that point later to the hon. Gentleman but I am coming up with a solution which differs entirely from the Labour party's time-honoured solution of simply flinging money at failed enterprises as though such a lifeline guaranteed survival.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

The hon. Gentleman will receive some elucidation if he cares to listen to me.

The enterprise or consortium which could acquire the yard would need to have the resources to finance the cash flow necessary to build these platforms. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) need not laugh, as that has been done successfully by many enterprises throughout the world. Such an enterprise would need to augment the management at Scott Lithgow, because it clearly requires some augmentation.

I hope that such a consortium would not be frightened to embark upon any training initiatives necessary to increase productivity. In return, the consortium would be entitled to demand flexible working from the work force. I believe that the men of Scott Lithgow would be prepared to honour that commitment.

The major difficulty in such a takeover—this has been identified by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West — would be the assumption of the contractual liabilities for rig 2002. No matter how much good will there is, assuming that British Shipbuilders and Britoil meet around the table and continue to negotiate. there will evidently be a sizeable shortfall, and in practical terms probably only the Government can bridge that gap.

I know that my Government's philosophy is non-interventionist, and in general terms I support that philosophy. I note, however, that substantial amounts of money have been made available to British Leyland to tide it over its difficulties and to institute improvements in productivity and that British Airways' debts have been written off. I make this plea for sympathetic consideration by the Government on the basis not of giving Scott Lithgow another last chance but of giving it the chance of a new beginning so that it can develop the yard's expertise to build the platforms which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCulley) described as the third generation of oil platforms.

I began by referring to the successful transformation of the upper Clyde yard. I end by expressing the fervent hope of the Opposition that that successful transformation be repeated at Scott Lithgow on the lower Clyde.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce , Gordon 6:10 pm, 24th January 1984

It was interesting to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) as much of it was relevant to one possible solution. Nevertheless, it is a bit much to suggest that that one option is all that the Government can offer to the debate, as many of us have grave doubts about it, especially in the present time scale.

I wish to address myself to some of the problems of Scott Lithgow and the facts that must be faced before any renegotiation is likely to be effective. I believe that delay with the Britoil rig was inevitable from the moment that the contract was signed. The terms and conditions of the contract were such that Scott Lithgow could not provide the contract support necessary and the management knew it when the contract was signed. The contractors also knew it and subsequently exploited it, compounded the cost and delay and ensured that the burden fell not on them but on Scott Lithgow. That was the advantage of the contract for them.

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce , Gordon

No, I shall not give way as I wish to make several important points and time is short.

Major—not minor—design changes were introduced during the construction of the rig. Following the loss of the Ocean Ranger rig, which was the previous generation, although the new rig was to have been called Ocean Ranger 3, it was realised that that would be a misnomer after the tragic loss of the previous rig and the findings of the inquiry into the Alexander L. Kielland disaster. That led to substantial changes, the implementation and cost of which fell on Scott Lithgow. This produced intolerable pressure on the Scott Lithgow drawing office, the manager of which spent many weeks in the Odeco offices in New Orleans trying to sort out the problems. That delay and the scale of the changes introduced by Odeco were important factors in the lateness of the contract, and it would be wrong not to appreciate the contribution to the delay made by the contractors and not just by Scott Lithgow's own problems.

The rig breaks new ground in design and weight of steel —there are 17,500 tonnes of steel in the rig—as well as in sophistication. It thus requires a design and development capability that Scott Lithgow simply did not have when the contract was signed.

Scott Lithgow's difficulties are therefore rooted not in the work force, as the Government would have us believe, but in the terms of the contract and the lack of adequate management backing by the main board of British Shipbuilders. Sir Robert Atkinson and latterly — and regrettably—Graham Day have gone out of their way on a number of occasions to ignore those problems and to stab Scott Lithgow in the back, and Ministers from the Prime Minister downwards have become accessories to the assassination of the yard. One is forced to conclude that British Shipbuilders knowingly took on a contract that was dangerous to Scott Lithgow and failed to support the yard, presumably in the belief that ultimately the yard could be closed or back-end subsidies could be obtained to see the contract through. Odeco, meanwhile, exploited the contract for all that it was worth.

When I visited the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), with colleagues from Inverclyde district council, the Government's main argument was based on the flexible working issue. Liberals have always accepted the importance of flexible working and from the outset urged the work force to accept it, but although we have consistently agreed that it is an important factor we do not accept that it is the main cause of Scott Lithgow's problems. It amounts to misrepresentation for the Government to persist—mischievously, in view of the facts that have come to light—in presenting that as the central argument and the main problem.

A further factor that has not been fully considered is the cost of entering this sophisticated offshore market and the investment required to allow Scott Lithgow to compete with the foreign yards which the Secretary of State seems to regard as better equipped to compete in this market. Those yards have received massive investment. The Scandinavian yards have been bailed out by their national Governments. It is absurd not to recognise the substantial investment required for such projects. The relevant investment in Scott Lithgow was only £15 million. That is utterly inadequate to allow it to compete with Korean yards specifically designed for the purpose and in receipt of massive operational subsidies due to American Government attempts to buttress that country's economy against Communist insurgence, which is a significant factor in the tendering prices of Korean yards.

The computer-aided design facility which would greatly have helped Scott Lithgow went to Cammell Laird, the chief executive of which is the executive director of the British Shipbuilders offshore division. I am told that he rarely even visited Scott Lithgow. Certainly he has not spent much time promoting that yard, his interest in it being compromised by his prior interest in Cammell Laird.

After facing the major project management difficulties which have caused delay and cost for Scott Lithgow, considerable specialist knowledge has now been gained and must not be thrown away. All those involved must recognise that there is no guarantee that any alternative arrangements will be successful, but to throw away that expertise now that there is a stronger local management team would be extremely foolish. That management would, of course, require full backing from the management of British Shipbuilders or the relevant private corporation if renegotiation were undertaken, but now that a flexible working agreement is possible the claim of local director Willem Kooymans that the yard could be a first-class offshore yard in three months has considerable substance. The opportunity is there, but the yard needs the work and the contract to complete.

The cost of failing to complete the contract and closing the yard is estimated at about £109 million, of which redundancy payments alone would account for about £53 million. The highest assessment of the overall cost of renegotiating and completing the contract is £65 million. As nearly £44 million of loss has already been provided for, the net effect of cancellation and closure is £65 million while the net cost of continuation is between £14 million and £22 million. In other words, it is clear that closure would cost a great deal more than keeping the yard open, even before one considers the knock-on effects and the cost of unemployment benefit and lost tax and national insurance contributions if the work force is thrown out of work. That would certainly cost the Government at least a further £12 million and possibly £24 million in the 12 months following closure.

In those circumstances, the Government are abdicating their responsibility by not intervening. They appointed the directors of British Shipbuilders. We in this House represent the shareholders and we must look to the future of that organisation and its ability to compete in a very important area of technology. So far, Scottish Office Ministers especially have been not just spineless but ignorant. They seem not to have considered the facts. If this debate serves a useful purpose, it will be that we have drawn out some facts surrounding the issue. The importance of the debate will not lie in the over-simple arguments that have been made.

The thrust of the Government's argument seems to be that the yard could be privatised. I have no objection to that in principle and nor do my colleagues, but what has been said has been somewhat airy. There is talk of a private buyer. Who is the buyer? Where will he come from? What are his terms? That is far from clear. The Government ought to reassure us that they know what they are talking about and that the suggestion has substance. Is Götaverken Arendal really interested? That firm has had considerable problems of its own and has in the past had to be bailed out by its own Government.

If there is the serious prospect of a private buyer, we ought to know — if possible — what it will cost the taxpayer. The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden acknowledged that there would be a cost. The Government should also remember that the present strengthened management, which has learnt from this difficult period, will not be available to an outside buyer. Its members are on secondment from other parts of the organisation and elsewhere. Without the benefit of the experience that has been gained, Scott Lithgow might be a dubious proposition for any possible buyer.

Ministers should stop running down the yard. They should stop ignoring the complex realities of the situation. They suggest that the workers' failure to sign a flexibility agreement was at the root of the problem. There was a great deal more to it than that. That was a side issue compared with the terms and management of the contract. It is time that Ministers praised the real achievements in expertise and improved productivity, especially in the past six to nine months.

The motion and the amendment are worded in characteristically divisive and adversarial language. However, we shall support the motion because in its terms and its substance it is constructively critical. The Government's amendment shows that they can provide no solution and that they have abdicated totally their responsibility to face up to the facts, consider the real issue and use their influence to bring about a settlement, whether that settlement involves private or public ownership. The closure of the yard would be catastrophic. People in Scotland will look to the Minister for a positive assurance that in some way, by private or public means, the order can be completed on the Clyde. The Government have given no indication whatever that their privatisation option has any substance. We will therefore oppose the Government's amendment and support the Opposition motion.

Photo of Mr Barry Henderson Mr Barry Henderson , North East Fife 6:23 pm, 24th January 1984

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) was wholly unconvincing as a poor man's adversarial politician attacking the Government. He was much more convincing when talking about the nature of the problems surrounding the contract. Although I would be very concerned if I thought that the contract was taken other than in good faith, I do not believe that that was so. The hon. Gentleman referred to genuine difficulties surrounding the contract and the management of the contract, which, I agree, were central to the problems of the yard. However, it was the responsibility of the management to see that the problems did not arise or to deal with them effectively. The hon. Gentleman also asked about the cost of a solution other than closure of the yard. He was not very convincing about that either.

The hon. Gentleman is putting forward hypotheses about what might be, under various conditions. In such arguments, what are crucial are the assumptions on which the arguments are based. The assumption made when the contract was established was that the platform would be delivered on time and that British Shipbuilders would make a profit out of it. That was a reasonable assumption. It was on such assumptions that the Government themselves put in about £165 million of taxpayers' money to support that noble new venture, which, as my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) said, held out great hope for the future. The assumption was that Scott Lithgow would deliver what it had been contracted to deliver. I hope that if any other assumption is going to be the basis on which more Government money is to be spent, it will be more well-founded than that.

The people of Scott Lithgow and Inverclyde should certainly not complain of the quality of the arguments put forward by the two local Members. The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) spoke with the sincerity that the House has come to recognise during the short time that he has been here. He spoke with power and passion. It does him no discredit to say that his speech paled into insignificance when compared with that of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley), which was one of the most impressive speeches made in the House for a long time. [Interruption.] The speech was on a serious subject. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) cannot take that subject seriously. I hope that my hon. Friend's speech will be listened to carefully in the area that she represents. My hon. Friend spoke up for the people in her area but also pointed out some of the difficulties that will arise if we are to find a correct solution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden has had experience in relevant situations, and he was able to point out some of the things that have to be put right. We have to learn from the mistakes of the past if there is to be hope for a successful solution. I hope that that will be fully understood by everyone concerned. There have been inadequate management, outdated work practices, bad industrial relations and, above all, a lack of combined effort by everyone concerned to fulfil the terms of the contract. That must change. I challenge private enterprise to provide the solution and bring about a happy outcome to a very unhappy affair.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East 6:27 pm, 24th January 1984

Today the House holds the future of a whole community in its hands. No hon. Member should be in any doubt about the serious nature of the debate and the consequences for the whole of the Greenock and Port Glasgow area and the area mentioned by the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) if the yard should close and the Government should fail.

No one listening to the Secretary of State for Scotland today would have dreamt for a minute that the whole of west central Scotland was faced with a catastrophe. Neither my right hon. and hon. Friends nor the people of Scotland — who are more important — have any confidence in the right hon. Gentleman's ability to find a new owner or a solution to the problem. That may be because of the right hon. Gentleman's catalogue of past failures. His own record damns him in the eyes of the Scottish people.

I do not want to spend too long in enumerating those events. However, I remind the House that we were told that the Secretary of State was seriously concerned about Linwood and that efforts were being made to attract a private buyer. However, Linwood closed. Then there was the pulp mill at Fort William. We were told that the Secretary of State was seriously concerned and that efforts were being made to attract a private buyer. However, the place closed and the community was decimated. Again, there was the smelter at Invergordon. The Secretary of State was seriously concerned. Efforts were made to attract a private buyer. Indeed, there was a short list of six. However, no one was attracted. The smelter was closed, and the community was decimated. Our fear that history will repeat itself is born not from any political opposition to the Secretary of State, although we oppose him politically, but from his record. We do not need to forecast. We have seen his record, and there can be no doubt that in Scotland community after community has been decimated because of his failure to keep open modern industries. He allowed them to go and then came to the House and told us that he was trying to attract a private buyer.

This afternoon we are talking about the future of an extensive community. In a moving speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) spelt out the social and economic consequences for the area if Scott Lithgow were to close. The area would be socially and economically decimated.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) when he quoted the forecast in the Sunday Post—possibly the most damaging for the right hon. Gentleman — of the consequences of Scott Lithgow's closure.

I do not want to denigrate the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde, because I pay tribute to her speech, but at the beginning I felt that she was more worried about the threat from the Liberals in her constituency than about Scott Lithgow's future. Having said that, if I may use an "Irishism", I say to her hon. Friends that she has shown herself to be the only man in the Tory party in Scotland at present.

The hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) had the nerve to quote the position of Marathon, now UIE. The Labour Government placed an order at Marathon to build a rig on spec. Every Scottish Tory in the House opposed the order when it was placed. There would have been no UIE if the Labour Government had not shown faith in the Marathon workers. The rig was subsequently sold at a profit. All we are asking this afternoon is that the Government, and hon. Members who claim to support them, show the same faith in the Scott Lithgow work force as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) and the Labour Government showed in the Marathon work force.

I do not understand how the Secretary of State for Scotland can find the matter funny. It is beyond me that the Secretary of State spends half his life sniggering at the prospect of 4,000 families being desolated by unemployment. I wish that he would take the matter more seriously and show some responsibility.

I want to deal with the rig being built at Scott Lithgow and the financial implications of the options open to the Government. The Minister of State will remember that in the Shipbuilding Act 1982—a small three-section Act which was the enabling legislation for the privatisation of British Shipbuilders — there is a commitment by the Government that if any part of British Shipbuilders is sold to private enterprise any contract in being at the point of sale will be underwritten by the Government until it is complete. The Minister of State is bound to confirm that because it was his legislation. He and I dealt with it in Committee.

If the Government are saying that they can find a private enterprise to buy Scott Lithgow — I do not believe that is possible because the time scale will not allow for such negotiations—there is still a commitment in their legislation that they must underwrite the contract for the rig until it is completed. That will cost a substantial amount. It is astonishing that the Government are prepared to commit themselves to giving substantial sums to private companies but are not prepared, as the most disgraceful amendment that has ever appeared on the Order Paper says, to commit themselves to make the resources available so that the contract can be renegotiated.

I regret to say that the Secretary of State was misleading the House when he said that Britoil was not prepared to renegotiate the contract with British Shipbuilders. It is. We know that an agreement about the contract was made, before Graham Day became chairman of British Shipbuilders, between Britoil and British Shipbuilders. I can give details of the arrangement if the Minister of State wants them. An arrangement was made that would solve the problem at Scott Lithgow, but Graham Day was then appointed chairman of British Shipbuilders and that was a disastrous step. The external financing limit and the targets set by the Government for British Shipbuilders became severely restrictive, and to be fair to Graham Day, if I must be fair to him, he is working within the strict limits set down by the Government.

That leads to the obvious point that the solution to the problem at Scott Lithgow is political. It needs will on the part of the Government to say to British Shipbuilders and Britoil that they are prepared to make the resources available to any private company buying Scott Lithgow. Where else, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) asked, would a private company obtain the cash to buy Scott Lithgow? Although the Government refused to tell us, we can see the kind of financial package that the Government would need to present to any private company to make the purchase of Scott Lithgow attractive.

We know that Graham Day and the board of British Shipbuilders are working under strict financial limits set by the Government and that they have been told that they must restrict the output from British Shipbuilders. We know that the Cabinet line, supported by the Secretary of State for Scotland, is to let Scott Lithgow go. The campaign against closure has been supported by every section of the community in Scotland—the Church of Scotland, the Catholic church, the community, Strathclyde regional council and the local councils at Inverclyde and beyond. I understand the Secretary of State for Scotland has received a letter signed by every general practitioner in the Greenock and Port Glasgow area warning him about the serious effects the closure of Scott Lithgow would have on the health of the people. I notice that the Secretary of State did not refer to that in his speech. I make the point to emphasise the community interest in the possible closure at Scott Lithgow.

The possibility of a private company taking over Scott Lithgow may or may not be a long-term prospect. I argue that it should not be entertained.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument, I argue that it should not be undertaken on a long-term basis. In the light of the urgent short-term problem, that is not a feasible proposition, simply because time is not on our side. We must find a solution within the next three or four weeks. The Minister of State is a realist. He has worked in the City and he knows what goes on in such negotiations—I give him that. He knows, as does every other hon. Member, that there is no possibility in the next three or four weeks of attracting a prospective buyer for Scott Lithgow, conducting all the necessary negotiations and reaching a financial arrangement. That would certainly not be a light pay day. It would involve the Government in considerable expenditure.

If a private buyer cannot be found, we must consider other ways to save Scott Lithgow and safeguard the future of a whole community. A solution would be possible, if the Government had the political will and if the Secretary of State had the influence that some people think he has. From bitter experience, I do not accept that the right hon. Gentleman has influence in the Cabinet, but others think he has. If he would use the influence that he claims to have, a political solution to the problem could be found.

What we and the people of Scotland will not accept—the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde will speak for herself, but I suspect that in her heart of hearts she will not accept it either—is a heart-rending story of failure from the Secretary of State. We do not want to be told in three or four weeks' time that he has lost endless nights of sleep in the search for a prospective buyer, that he has found no interest in the yard, and that, however reluctantly, the Government have decided to allow the closure.

How often have we heard that story from this Secretary of State? That is why I say that, if the right hon. Gentleman stands condemned today, he is condemned on his own record—the fact that this has happened time and time again, to industry after industry, in community after community.

The Government can solve this problem — by interfering. After all, they are interfering at present. That is why I cannot understand the reason for their amendment. They claim that they are trying to find a prospective buyer. If they are interfering to that extent, they can interfere much more, on a political level, to ensure that the rig is completed.

The Government seem prepared to stand idly by, to opt out of the world's most sophisticated technology of drilling rig construction. If we opt out of that technology, what future is there for British shipbuilding and our oil industry? If we are to be told that we cannot compete in this most sophisticated area, what future is there for this country?

I hope to goodness that the Minister of State will not say that we cannot compete, that we cannot do this or that. The work force in Scott Lithgow has been blamed for an awful lot. There has been a great deal of distortion over the past three weeks. The Government have created many problems for themselves by trying to sell this company after denigrating it.

As for the losses, it has never been pointed out that the figures include a substantial loss made on two vessels which were on the stocks when the company was taken into public ownership in 1977. Those contracts were made by the private company, not by British Shipbuilders.

The Secretary of State and, no doubt, the Minister of State will continue to tell us that a contract is a contract: a contract made has to be agreed; and a contract has to be completed and cannot be broken. However, I tell them and their hon. Friends on the Back Benches that they have a contract. They have a contract with the people of Scotland, with the people of Greenock and Port Glasgow and of the whole of Inverclyde and Strathclyde. They had better deliver that contract in the weeks ahead or the political price that they will rightly pay will be severe. We saw that with Hamish Gray in Ross and Cromarty. I can see a few more heads rolling as a result of the Government's attitude to the issue.

That is why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will vote enthusiastically for our motion and, with the same enthusiasm, against the Government's amendment.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames 6:46 pm, 24th January 1984

In the debate extremely strong feelings have been expressed, which is entirely natural, given the seriousness of the situation that confronts Clydeside. Of course, I absolutely understand why so many Opposition Members and my hon. Friends felt strongly about the issue. There is no doubt that closure would be a major blow to the lower Clyde. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley) and the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) made it clear what it would mean for their constituencies. They advanced their cases strongly. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that he fully appreciated the situation and outlined some of the things that he hoped to do to help the community to find a new way forward in what are undoubtedly extremely difficult circumstances.

The debate also demonstrated that strong feelings, while understandable, can also lead to utterly wrong-headed conclusions. The Opposition always cry for Government intervention to save those who, in the past, have not always been prepared to act in time to save themselves. By "intervention" the Opposition mean, as so often, throwing more cash and more taxpayers' money at the problem.

Opposition Members must understand how we arrived at the present position. Britoil ordered the rig for delivery in April this year. In October it concluded that not only would the rig not be ready in April but, under the terms of the contract, it required Scott Lithgow to demonstrate that it could deliver it within 300 days. After a technical demonstration by British Shipbuilders, Britoil was still not satisfied that the rig could be delivered within 300 days and issued the cancellation notice on 19 December because it believed that the rig was over 300 days late.

Opposition Members have put aside all that and argued that at this stage completion must be cheaper than cancellation for Scott Lithgow. I assure the House that that emphatically is not the view of British Shipbuilders. It is the view of British Shipbuilders that it would be cheaper to cancel than to continue. British Shipbuilders and Scott Lithgow have also given the Government figures, and the Government accept that the judgment of Scott Lithgow is right. I cannot reveal those figures to the House for this very good reason. Although Scott Lithgow is in negotiation with Britoil, there is the possibility of a private buyer being interested in the yard. We must also consider the knock-on effect of the cancellation of the contract on other contracts. It would be the height of folly for us to reveal those figures to the House. We have been shown them. We are satisfied that the view taken by Scott Lithgow is the right view.

Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Govan

I need hardly say that what the hon. Gentleman has said is completely unacceptable to the Opposition. If the Government will not disclose British Shipbuilders' figures, will they disclose their own figures on the cost of redundancy? That is within the Government's control and there is nothing commercially confidential about them.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

The right hon. Gentleman well understands that the figures about which I am talking are from the point of view of Scott Lithgow and the cost to the company of continuation or cancellation. That is its decision and its view. It is not a social service, and we require it to run its industry at a profit.

Opposition Members ignore the fact that, despite what is being said in the press, the rig is only one third completed. In Britoil's opinion it is already 300 days late. Huge losses have already piled up on that contract. Scott Lithgow believes that to continue to do the other two thirds of the work would expose it to considerable risks. The chairman has told me that two thirds of the assembly work remains to be done. It is in assembly work especially that accurate dimensional control is necessary and where any problems will arise.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. If he had not, I should have been tempted to raise a point of order. Does he realise that once he has quoted from a document he is supposed to make it available to the House? I assume that that is provided for in a Standing Order. The Minister has quoted figures from a document which he has obviously seen. Does he agree that it is normal practice in the House, having produced figures from a document, to make the document available to the House?

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

I was not quoting from a document. It was the complaint of Opposition Members that I was not giving enough figures. The hon. Gentleman will see in Hansard tomorrow all of the information which I have given.

Opposition Members must take into account the fact that huge losses have been provided for. In March last year British Shipbuilders provided £44 million for losses on this contract. In the half year accounts in December it was stated that another and even bigger provision, which was not specified, was being made. In other words, the contract which was only one third complete—

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but this is a matter of fundamental importance. Can you give me any advice, Mr. Speaker, as to how we can have made available documents upon which it is clear that the Government must have based their calculations? The Minister has said clearly that he has figures which have been supplied to him. They are fundamental to the judgment which Ministers have made and they are fundamental to the judgment of the House. Is there any way in which we can ensure that the documents and the figures are made available? It is scandalous that they should be refused to the House.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I believe that the Minister was not quoting from a document. I understood that he was quoting calculations. I have no power to require that they be made available.

Photo of Mr Bruce Millan Mr Bruce Millan , Glasgow Govan

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Presumably the calculations have not been done in thin air and must be in some form of document. If a document has been quoted from, should it not be laid on the Table of the House?

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister was not quoting figures but he was quoting a calculation which was based on figures. Therefore, there is documentary fact on which the Government have based their case. That is not only analogous but all square with quoting figures. I therefore hope that you will rule, Mr. Speaker, that we are entitled to see those figures.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The Minister was not quoting from a state document. He was giving information for which he had been asked.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

As I said, I was not quoting from a document. I was asked whether the Government had been given figures which compared cancellation with continuation. I told the House that we had. I also told the House what British Shipbuilders had concluded and that, despite the uncertainties, we saw no reason to depart from that conclusion.

Despite what Opposition Members have said, Scott Lithgow's record on deliveries is not good. Bearing that record in mind, continuation of the contract would let British Shipbuilders in for an extremely long period during which losses could accelerate to even more incredible heights. That is the Government's and British Shipbuilders' view. Anyone who says that the Government should force British Shipbuilders to renegotiate is saying that we should force it to subsidise the contract even more. It is not prepared to do that and the Government are not prepared to compel it to subsidise the contract further against its commercial judgment.

Opposition Members have argued that the rig is unique and that, therefore, some problems with it are inevitable. Perhaps there is something in that. However, provision has already been made for losses of £44 million. That demonstrates a spectacular failure to move down a learning curve. With such costs, I challenge the view that it is worth continuing the attempt. There is even some dispute as to whether the rig is unique. An order for an extremely similar rig was placed with Sumitomo and it was delivered on time.

Even if the Scott Lithgow rig is different, the contract allowed extra time because of its complexity. Scott Lithgow accepted that contract. Indeed, it was keen to get it. We have always argued that the contract must be seen in the wider context of Scott Lithgow's recent performance, especially its delivery record. I am afraid that its delivery record is a sad story. Sir Robert Atkinson said that he could hardly remember when Scott Lithgow had delivered a vessel on time. The British Petroleum rig is still being completed there. It is 11 months late and yet it is identical to a rig the order for which was placed with Hyundai at the same time, which is now in operation. Last year BP received a tanker 15 months after the contractual date. The contract for that order was renegotiated —precisely the course of action that Opposition Members are urging on us now. What was the result? A loss of 113 per cent. of the contract price.

Opposition Members accuse us of unfairly knocking Scott Lithgow. As long as Opposition Members take such an unrealistic view, ignore the problems and pretend there never have been problems at Scott Lithgow, it is necessary for us to explain why we face present circumstances and why this decision had to be made. It is not as if my right hon. Friend and other Ministers did not warn Scott Lithgow repeatedly about what was likely to happen. We warned and received no support from Opposition Members.

It might be argued whether one rig is identical to another or who is to blame for the problem, but one thing cannot be denied: Scott Lithgow's financial performance has been disastrous. I challenge any Opposition Member to dispute that. Since 1977 Scott Lithgow has accounted for 8 per cent. of employment in British Shipbuilders and for 38 per cent. of its accumulated losses. It has lost £165 million since nationalisation and last year it lost £66 million—half of British Shipbuilders' losses. It was the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who, when a Minister in the Labour Government, said, as my right hon. Friend pointed out today, that we cannot go on having one yard threatening the existence of British Shipbuilders.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) criticised what the chairman of British Shipbuilders, Graham Day, has done. He seems to forget that he is the same Graham Day whom the Labour Government appointed to British Shipbuilders. Opposition Members must consider what could have been done with the £250 million that has been poured down the drain if it had been spent on Scottish industry, Scottish infrastructure, Scottish hospitals and Scottish pensions. All that we have managed to do is to maintain 6,500 jobs. How many Scottish hospitals would the Opposition like us to pour into the yard to save the contract?

It has been alleged that we are destroying the United Kingdom's capability of mobile offshore constructing. We have a private sector offshore industry. Our offshore industry must be wealth-creating and not wealth-consuming, and it is right that we should pay tribute to the orders that have been won recently by private sector companies. The right hon. Member for Govan referred to a new flexible attitude, meaning that we should give the yard another chance. The change of attitude could hardly have been left any later. We welcome the fact that at the eleventh hour and the fifty-ninth minute reality is dawning. We urge the trade unions at Scott Lithgow to sign the survival plan and accept essential changes in working practices. The position was very different three weeks ago when the call came for a national strike. Did the trade unions at that time stand up and denounce it as folly? Did Opposition Members encourage people to reject the strike call? No, they did not. I am afraid that at times it appeared as though those in the yard were ready, keen and willing to throw away their jobs.

The story has been gloomy and sad. One gleam of hope has been the possibility of a private sector takeover of the yard. I do not wish to arouse hope unduly. Nobody says that to achieve that would be other than difficult. My right hon. Friend has said that the Government will do all that they can to encourage such a takeover. That might be a way forward.

For the Government to get out their cheque book and to force Britoil and British Shipbuilders to negotiate by writing a large cheque on behalf of British Shipbuilders is not the way forward. This is a difficult problem. Whether the problem is difficult or easy, the Opposition answer is always the same—intervene, subsidise and rescue. The cheque book approach to nationalised industries is precisely the approach that has saddled us with so many gigantic loss-makers. It has not worked in the past and, contrary to what Opposition Members may think, industry cannot be run as a social service.

For those reasons, I urge my hon. Friends to reject the Opposition's motion and to accept the Government's amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 205, Noes 313.

Division No. 133][7.02 pm
AYES
Alton, DavidDavies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Anderson, DonaldDavis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDewar, Donald
Ashdown, PaddyDixon, Donald
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDobson, Frank
Ashton, JoeDormand, Jack
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Douglas, Dick
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Dubs, Alfred
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Barron, KevinEadie, Alex
Beckett, Mrs MargaretEastham, Ken
Beith, A. J.Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Bell, StuartEllis, Raymond
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Evans, Ioan (Cynon Valley)
Bermingham, GeraldEvans, John (St. Helens N)
Bidwell, SydneyEwing, Harry
Blair, AnthonyFatchett, Derek
Boothroyd, Miss BettyField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boyes, RolandFields, T. (L 'pool Broad Gn)
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)Fisher, Mark
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Flannery, Martin
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)Forrester, John
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Foster, Derek
Bruce, MalcolmFoulkes, George
Buchan, NormanFraser, J. (Norwood)
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Campbell-Savours, DaleGeorge, Bruce
Canavan, DennisGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)Godman, Dr Norman
Carter-Jones, LewisGould, Bryan
Cartwright, JohnGourlay, Harry
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Hardy, Peter
Clarke, ThomasHarman, Ms Harriet
Clay, RobertHarrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Cohen, HarryHaynes, Frank
Coleman, DonaldHealey, Rt Hon Denis
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Heffer, Eric S.
Conlan, BernardHogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)Howells, Geraint
Corbett, RobinHoyle, Douglas
Corbyn, JeremyHughes, Mark (Durham)
Cowans, HarryHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Craigen, J. M.Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Crowther, StanHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cunliffe, LawrenceHume, John
Cunningham, Dr JohnJanner, Hon Greville
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
John, BrynmorPrescott, John
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Randall, Stuart
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRedmond, M.
Kennedy, CharlesRees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilRichardson, Ms Jo
Kirkwood, ArchibaldRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Lambie, DavidRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Leadbitter, TedRobertson, George
Leighton, RonaldRooker, J. W.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Litherland, RobertRowlands, Ted
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Ryman, John
Lofthouse, GeoffreySedgemore, Brian
Loyden, EdwardSheerman, Barry
McCartney, HughSheldon, Rt Hon R.
McDonald, Dr OonaghShore, Rt Hon Peter
McGuire, MichaelShort, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
McKelvey, WilliamSilkin, Rt Hon J.
Mackenzie, Rt Hon GregorSkinner, Dennis
Maclennan, RobertSmith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
McNamara, KevinSmith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
McTaggart, RobertSnape, Peter
McWilliam, JohnSoley Clive
Madden, MaxSpearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr JohnStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Stott, Roger
Martin, MichaelStrang, Gavin
Mason, Rt Hon RoyStraw, Jack
Maxton, JohnThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Maynard, Miss JoanThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Meadowcroft, MichaelThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Michie, WilliamThorne, Stan (Preston)
Mikardo, IanTinn, James
Millan, Rt Hon BruceTorney, Tom
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Wainwright, R.
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Wareing, Robert
Nellist, DavidWeetch, Ken
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWelsh, Michael
O'Brien, WilliamWhite James
O'Neill, MartinWilliams, Rt Hon A
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyWilson, Gordon
Owen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWinnick, David
Park, GeorgeWoodall, Alec
Parry, RobertWrigglesworth, Ian
Patchett, TerryYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Pendry, Tom
Penhaligon, DavidTellers for the Ayes:
Pike, PeterMr. James Hamilton and
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Mr. John Home Robertson
NOES
Adley, RobertBiggs-Davison, Sir John
Aitken, JonathanBlaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Alexander, RichardBody, Richard
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBonsor, Sir Nicholas
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBoscawen, Hon Robert
Amess, DavidBottomley, Peter
Ancram, MichaelBowden, A.(Brighton K'to'n)
Arnold, TomBowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Ashby, DavidBoyson, Dr Rhodes
Aspinwall, JackBraine, Sir Bernard
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Bright, Graham
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Brinton, Tim
Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Brooke, Hon Peter
Baldry, AnthonyBruinvels, Peter
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Bryan, Sir Paul
Batiste, SpencerBuchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyBuck, Sir Antony
Bellingham, HenryBulmer, Esmond
Bendall, VivianBurt, Alistair
Benyon, WilliamButcher, John
Berry, Sir AnthonyButterfill, John
Bevan, David GilroyCarlisle, John (N Luton)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Hayhoe, Barney
Carttiss, MichaelHayward, Robert
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHeath, Rt Hon Edward
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHeathcoat-Amory, David
Chapman, SydneyHenderson, Barry
Churchill, W. S.Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Hickmet, Richard
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hicks, Robert
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Hill, James
Clegg, Sir WalterHind, Kenneth
Cockeram, EricHirst, Michael
Colvin, MichaelHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Coombs, SimonHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Cope, JohnHolt, Richard
Cormack, PatrickHooson, Tom
Corrie, JohnHordern, Peter
Couchman, JamesHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cranborne, ViscountHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Critchley, JulianHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Crouch, DavidHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Dorrell, StephenHubbard-Miles, Peter
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Hunt, David (Wirral)
Dover, DenshoreHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Dunn, RobertHunter, Andrew
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Eggar, TimIrving, Charles
Emery, Sir PeterJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Evennett, DavidJessel, Toby
Eyre, Sir ReginaldJohnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Fallon, MichaelJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Farr, JohnJones, Robert (W Herts)
Favell, AnthonyJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Fenner, Mrs PeggyKey, Robert
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyKing, Rt Hon Tom
Fletcher, AlexanderKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Fookes, Miss JanetKnowles, Michael
Forman, NigelKnox, David
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Lamont, Norman
Forth, EricLatham, Michael
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanLawler, Geoffrey
Fox, MarcusLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Lee, John (Pendle)
Freeman, RogerLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fry, PeterLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Gale, RogerLester, Jim
Galley, RoyLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Lightbown, David
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Lilley, Peter
Garel-Jones, TristanLloyd, Ian (Havant)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Glyn, Dr AlanLord, Michael
Goodhart, Sir PhilipLyell, Nicholas
Goodlad, AlastairMcCrindle, Robert
Gorst, JohnMacfarlane, Neil
Gow, IanMacGregor, John
Gower, Sir RaymondMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Grant, Sir AnthonyMacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Greenway, HarryMaclean, David John.
Gregory, ConalMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)McQuarrie, Albert
Grist, IanMadel, David
Ground, PatrickMajor, John
Grylls, MichaelMalins, Humfrey
Gummer, John SelwynMalone, Gerald
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)Maples, John
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Marland, Paul
Hampson, Dr KeithMarlow, Antony
Hanley, JeremyMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Hannam, JohnMates, Michael
Hargreaves, KennethMather, Carol
Harris, DavidMaude, Francis
Harvey, RobertMawhinney, Dr Brian
Haselhurst, AlanMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelMayhew, Sir Patrick
Hawkins, C. (High Peak)Mellor, David
Hawksley, WarrenMerchant, Piers
Hayes, J.Meyer, Sir Anthony
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Mills, Iain (Meriden)Ryder, Richard
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Sackville, Hon Thomas
Miscampbell, NormanSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Moate, RogerShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Monro, Sir HectorSilvester, Fred
Montgomery, FergusSims, Roger
Moore, JohnSkeet. T. H. H.
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Moynihan, Hon C.Speed, Keith
Mudd, DavidSpeller, Tony
Murphy, ChristopherSpence, John
Neale, GerrardSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Needham, RichardSquire, Robin
Nelson, AnthonyStanbrook, Ivor
Newton, TonySteen, Anthony
Nicholls, PatrickStevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Norris, StevenStewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Onslow, CranleyStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Oppenheim, PhilipStokes, John
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Osborn, Sir JohnThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Ottaway, RichardThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Thornton, Malcolm
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilThurnham, Peter
Parris, MatthewTownend, John (Bridlington)
Patten, John (Oxford)Townsend, Cyril D.(B'heath)
Pattie, GeoffreyTracey, Richard
Pawsey JamesTrippier, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabethvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWakeham, Rt Hon John
Pink, R. BonnerWalden, George
Pollock. AlexanderWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Porter, BarryWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Powell, William (Corby)Walters, Dennis
Powley, JohnWard, John
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWarren, Kenneth
Proctor, K. HarveyWells, John (Maidstone)
Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWheeler, John
Raffan, KeithWiggin, Jerry
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWilkinson, John
Rathbone, TimWinterton, Mrs Ann
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)Winterton, Nicholas
Renton, TimWood, Timothy
Rhodes James. RobertWoodcock, Michael
Ridley, Rt Hon NicholasYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Ridsdale, Sir JulianYounger, Rt Hon George
Rifkind, Malcolm
Roberts. Wyn (Conwy)Tellers for the Noes:
Roe, Mrs MarionMr. Ian Lang and
Rost, PeterMr. Michael Neubert.
Rowe, Andrew

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments):—

The House divided: Ayes 304, Noes 204.

Division No. 134][7.15 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertBaldry, Anthony
Alexander, RichardBanks, Robert (Harrogate)
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBatiste, Spencer
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBeaumont-Dark, Anthony
Amess, DavidBellingham, Henry
Ancram, MichaelBendall, Vivian
Arnold, TomBenyon, William
Ashby, DavidBerry, Sir Anthony
Aspinwall, JackBevan, David Gilroy
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.Biffen, Rt Hon John
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)Biggs-Davison, Sir John
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Baker, Kenneth (Mole Valley)Body, Richard
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon RobertGriffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)
Bottomley, PeterGriffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)Grist, Ian
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Ground, Patrick
Boyson, Dr RhodesGrylls, Michael
Braine, Sir BernardGummer, John Selwyn
Brandon-Bravo, MartinHamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Bright, GrahamHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Brinton, TimHampson, Dr Keith
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonHanley, Jeremy
Bruinvels, PeterHannam, John
Bryan, Sir PaulHargreaves, Kenneth
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.Harris, David
Buck, Sir AntonyHarvey, Robert
Bulmer, EsmondHaselhurst, Alan
Burt, AlistairHavers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Butcher, JohnHawkins, C. (High Peak)
Butterfill, JohnHawksley, Warren
Carlisle, John (N Luton)Hayes, J.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hayhoe, Barney
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)Hayward, Robert
Carttiss, MichaelHeathcoat-Amory, David
Chalker, Mrs LyndaHenderson, Barry
Channon, Rt Hon PaulHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, SydneyHickmet, Richard
Churchill, W. S.Hicks, Robert
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)Hill, James
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)Hind, Kenneth
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Hirst, Michael
Clegg, Sir WalterHolland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Cockeram, EricHolt, Richard
Colvin, MichaelHooson, Tom
Coombs, SimonHordern, Peter
Cope, JohnHowarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Cormack, PatrickHowarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Corrie, JohnHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Couchman, JamesHowell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Cranborne, ViscountHowell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Critchley, JulianHubbard-Miles, Peter
Crouch, DavidHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Currie, Mrs EdwinaHunter, Andrew
Dorrell, StephenHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Irving, Charles
Dover, DenshoreJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Dunn, RobertJessel, Toby
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)Johnson-Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Eggar, TimJones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Emery, Sir PeterJones, Robert (W Herts)
Evennett, DavidJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Eyre, Sir ReginaldKey, Robert
Fallon, MichaelKing, Rt Hon Tom
Farr, JohnKnight, Gregory (Derby N)
Favell, AnthonyKnowles, Michael
Fenner, Mrs PeggyKnox, David
Finsberg, Sir GeoffreyLamont, Norman
Fletcher, AlexanderLang, Ian
Fookes, Miss JanetLatham, Michael
Forman, NigelLawler, Geoffrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Forth, EricLee, John (Pendle)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fox, MarcusLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fraser, Peter (Angus East)Lester, Jim
Freeman, RogerLewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Fry, PeterLightbown, David
Gale, RogerLloyd, Ian (Havant)
Galley, RoyLloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Lord, Michael
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)Lyell, Nicholas
Garel-Jones, TristanMcCrindle, Robert
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMacfarlane, Neil
Glyn, Dr AlanMacGregor, John
Goodlad, AlastairMacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gorst, JohnMacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Gow, IanMaclean, David John.
Gower, Sir RaymondMcNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Grant, Sir AnthonyMcQuarrie, Albert
Greenway, HarryMadel, David
Gregory, ConalMajor, John
Malins, HumfreyRenton, Tim
Malone, GeraldRhodes James, Robert
Maples, JohnRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Marland, PaulRidsdale, Sir Julian
Marlow, AntonyRifkind, Malcolm
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Mates, MichaelRoe, Mrs Marion
Mather, CarolRost, Peter
Maude, FrancisRowe, Andrew
Mawhinney, Dr BrianRumbold, Mrs Angela
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinRyder, Richard
Mayhew, Sir PatrickSackville, Hon Thomas
Mellor, DavidSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Merchant, PiersShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Meyer, Sir AnthonySilvester, Fred
Miller, Hal (B'grove)Sims, Roger
Mills, lain (Meriden)Skeet, T. H. H.
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Miscampbell, NormanSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mitchell, David (NW Hants)Speed, Keith
Moate, RogerSpeller, Tony
Monro, Sir HectorSpence, John
Montgomery, FergusSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Moore, JohnSquire, Robin
Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)Steen, Anthony
Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Moynihan, Hon C.Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Mudd, DavidStewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Murphy, ChristopherStokes, John
Neale, GerrardThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Needham, RichardThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Nelson, AnthonyThompson, Donald (Calder V)
Neubert, MichaelThornton, Malcolm
Newton, TonyThurnham, Peter
Nicholls, PatrickTownend, John (Bridlington)
Norris, StevenTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Onslow, CranleyTracey, Richard
Oppenheim, Philipvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Osborn, Sir JohnWalden, George
Ottaway, RichardWalker, Bill (T'side N)
Page, Richard (Herts SW)Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Parkinson, Rt Hon CecilWalters, Dennis
Parris, MatthewWard, John
Patten, John (Oxford)Warren, Kenneth
Pawsey, JamesWatson, John
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethWells, John (Maidstone)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir IanWheeler, John
Pink, R. BonnerWiggin, Jerry
Pollock, AlexanderWilkinson, John
Porter, BarryWinterton, Mrs Ann
Powell, William (Corby)Winterton, Nicholas
Powley, JohnWood, Timothy
Prentice, Rt Hon RegWoodcock, Michael
Proctor, K. HarveyYounger, Rt Hon George
Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Raffan, KeithTellers for the Ayes:
Raison, Rt Hon TimothyMr. David Hunt and
Rathbone, TimMr. Douglas Hogg.
Rees Rt Hon Peter (Dover)
NOES
Alton, DavidBoyes, Roland
Anderson, DonaldBrown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBrown, Hugh D. (Provan)
Ashdown, PaddyBrown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackBrown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)
Ashton, JoeBrown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)Bruce, Malcolm
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Buchan, Norman
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)
Barron, KevinCampbell-Savours, Dale
Beckett, Mrs MargaretCanavan, Dennis
Beith, A. J.Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Bell, StuartCarter-Jones, Lewis
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)Cartwright, John
Bermingham, GeraldClark, Dr David (S Shields)
Bidwell, SydneyClarke, Thomas
Blair, AnthonyClay, Robert
Boothroyd, Miss BettyCocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Cohen, HarryLofthouse, Geoffrey
Coleman, DonaldLoyden, Edward
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.McCartney, Hugh
Conlan, BernardMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Cook, Frank (Stockton North)McGuire, Michael
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Corbett, RobinMcKelvey, William
Corbyn, JeremyMackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Cowans, HarryMaclennan, Robert
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)McNamara, Kevin
Craigen, J. M.McTaggart, Robert
Crowther, StanMcWilliam, John
Cunliffe, LawrenceMadden, Max
Cunningham, Dr JohnMarek, Dr John
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'I)Martin, Michael
Dewar, DonaldMason, Rt Hon Roy
Dixon, DonaldMaxton, John
Dobson, FrankMaynard, Miss Joan
Dormand, JackMeadowcroft, Michael
Douglas, DickMichie, William
Dubs, AlfredMikardo, Ian
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Eadie, AlexMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Eastham, KenMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Ellis, RaymondMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Evans, loan (Cynon Valley)Nellist, David
Evans, John (St. Helens N)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Ewing, HarryO'Brien, William
Fatchett, DerekO'Neill, Martin
Faulds, AndrewPark, George
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)Parry, Robert
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)Patchett, Terry
Fisher, MarkPendry, Tom
Flannery, MartinPenhaligon, David
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPike, Peter
Forrester, JohnPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Foster, DerekPrescott, John
Foulkes, GeorgeRadice, Giles
Fraser, J. (Norwood)Randall, Stuart
Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldRedmond, M.
George, BruceRees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRichardson, Ms Jo
Godman, Dr NormanRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Golding, JohnRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Gould, BryanRobertson, George
Gourlay, HarryRooker, J. W.
Hardy, PeterRoss, Ernest (Dundee W)
Harman, Ms HarrietRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterRowlands, Ted
Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithRyman, John
Haynes, FrankSedgemore, Brian
Healey, Rt Hon DenisSheerman, Barry
Heffer, Eric S.Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Howells, GeraintSilkin, Rt Hon J.
Hoyle, DouglasSkinner, Dennis
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)Snape, Peter
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Soley, Clive
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Spearing, Nigel
Janner, Hon GrevilleStewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)Stott, Roger
John, BrynmorStrang, Gavin
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Straw, Jack
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Kennedy, CharlesThomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilThompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Kirkwood, ArchibaldThorne, Stan (Preston)
Lambie, DavidTinn, James
Leadbitter, TedTorney, Tom
Leighton, RonaldWainwright, R.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Wallace, James
Lewis, Terence (Worsley)Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Litherland, RobertWareing, Robert
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Weetch, Ken
Welsh, MichaelWrigglesworth, Ian
White, JamesYoung, David (Bolton SE)
Williams, Rt Hon A.
Wilson, GordonTellers for the Noes:
Winnick, DavidMr. James Hamilton and
Woodall, AlecMr. John Home Robertson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved,That this House, recognising the wisdom of the Government's general policy of declining to seek to interfere in management responsibilities in industry and commerce, would deplore any moves by the Government to involve itself in the resolution of the matters in dispute between Britoil and Scott Lithgow over the contract to build a semi-submersible drilling rig; and notes that since the Scott Lithgow Yard was nationalised losses underwritten by the taxpayer total £165 million.