Is not the arrival into the United Kingdom this week of the new P and O cruise liner Oriana yet another example of the decline of Britain's historic shipbuilding industry? Is the Minister aware that that will be felt particularly strongly in my constituency, where the previous Oriana vessel was constructed in the late 1950s? Why have the British Government not shown the same level of patriotism and support for our shipbuilding industry as other foreign Governments in the European Union have shown for theirs? Is that not a further example of the decline in the British industrial base caused by the Government's negligence?
The hon. Gentleman seems unaware that P and O asked all three British yards to bid for the building of the vessel and all three declined to do so for their own commercial reasons. A significant number of firms supplied equipment for the Oriana and much of the outfitting work was done by United Kingdom firms.
Will the Minister endorse the efforts being made by Harland and Wolff to diversify its product range and to develop further its international competitive position by seeking to establish co-operative agreements with overseas yards such as Kawasaki and Daewoo? Does he agree that that is one of the ways in which all British yards can help to secure their future?
As I believe the hon. Gentleman is aware, I paid a visit to Harland and Wolff and I shall shortly meet again its chief executive, Mr. Per Nielson. The yard is making strenuous efforts to diversify. I have set up a group among the oil companies to look at the possibility of producing floating production vessels at the Harland and Wolff yard and other yards in the United Kingdom. The initial results of that study are encouraging. Ultimately, Harland and Wolff must be able to compete effectively with other yards, both in Europe and elsewhere.