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The rôle of government in the decline of the British shipbuilding industry, 1945 - 1980

Connors, Duncan Philip (2009) The rôle of government in the decline of the British shipbuilding industry, 1945 - 1980. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis studies the interrelationship between government and the shipbuilding industry in the United Kingdom during the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of economic growth between 1945 and 1973. It argues that actions of government in the 1960s and 70s aimed at arresting the decline of shipbuilding as an industry instead acted first as a brake on the industry’s development and second as one of the principal agents of its decline. It does this by demonstrating that the constant government led introspection into the shipbuilding industry between 1960 and 1966 delayed investment decisions by companies that were uncertain about which direction the government would take or whether it would provide funding. This thesis also demonstrates that the Wilson Labour governments’ instruments of modernisation and change, the Shipbuilding Inquiry Committee and the Shipbuilding Industry Board, chose and imposed technical and organisational solutions on the industry that did not reflect the prevailing orthodoxy of shipbuilding in competitor nations such as Japan and Sweden. This fatally damaged the industry during a time of demand for newly constructed vessels; the cheap price of crude oil in the 1960s led to a very high demand for very large crude carriers, supertankers, capable of transporting between one quarter and one half a million tons of crude oil from the Middle East to the industrial nations of North American and Europe. However, as the case studies of the Harland and Wolff and Scott Lithgow companies in this thesis demonstrates, British shipyards were ill equipped and poorly prepared to take advantage of this situation and when finally the shipyards were positioned to take advantage of the situation, the 1973 Yom Kippur War and subsequent OPEC oil embargo took away the demand for supertankers. This was when the British government dealt the now nationalised shipbuilding industry a fatal blow, subsidising supertankers no longer in demand for purchase at a heavily subsidised price by shipping lines that would place the vessels into immediate and long-term storage. In short, this thesis illuminates the complex relationship between government and industry that led to the demise of the British shipbuilding industry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Shipbuilding, Clyde, Belfast, Stormont, Wilson Government, Ministry of Technology, Tony Benn, Civil Service, Policy Networks, Industrial intervention, Harland and Wolff, Scott Lithgow, Crude Oil, Energy, Japanese economic growth, Japanese shipbuilding, European economic growth, European shipbuilding, British economic decline, Callaghan government, Heath government, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Industry, Geddes Report, Shipbuilding Industry Board, Shipbuilding Inquiry Committee
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN1187 Scotland
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe) > JN101 Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
Supervisor's Name: Rollings, Prof. Neil
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Dr Duncan Philip Connors
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-1276
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2010
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2013 10:34
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1276

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