Labour Governments and Private Industry: The Experience of 1945-1951

By H. Mercer; N. Rollings et al. | Go to book overview

Ten
The shipbuilding industry 1

LEWIS JOHNMAN


THE STRUCTURE OF THE INDUSTRY AND ITS POSITION 1940-1945

A 1948 Labour Party report on the shipbuilding industry observed that: . . . no other major British industry, during the period of its modern history, has suffered periods of depression so prolonged and so severe, so as to almost destroy its resources in money, equipment and craftsmen. 2

From a position in 1900 of near complete control in the world export market in merchant ships, Britain's share of world tonnage launched had dropped to one-eighth by 1939. Prior to 1914, some 22 per cent of British launchings had been for export, whereas in 1937-8, only 10 per cent of a much reduced output were for foreign order. In 1938 more ships were built abroad for British owners than were on order in the UK for foreign owners. The industry's output between 1929 and 1939 was never more than one-third of its capacity and in some periods over 60 per cent of the insured workers within the industry were unemployed. 3

In part, the explanation lay in the nature of the UK shipbuilding industry. As late as 1954, the Census of Production listed over 676 establishments engaged in shipbuilding and 104 in marine engineering. After 1945, however, 31 establishments produced some 90 per cent of the tonnage launched and 6 companies with 100 berths accounted for over half the tonnage of mercantile output. 4 The nature of ownership remained in the post-war period a mix of public companies, proprietorship and private limited companies dominated by family ownership. Most firms retained a high degree of independence of operation with any horizontal integration predicated on the protection of market shares and prices, and vertical integration on raw material supplies. The production base tended to operate via a single distributional channel with ships being built in response to a specific order through competitive tendering. The shipbuilding firm was linked to the market place through a specialised product line which was dependent upon management manipulation of the tendering system. The basic work-organisational system was a tripartite, functionally specialised system, where the three main components -- estimating, costing and works departments -- were

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Labour Governments and Private Industry: The Experience of 1945-1951
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Notes on the Contributors vi
  • Preface vii
  • One: Introduction 1
  • Part One the Policies 13
  • Appendix 2.2 Edited Version of Gen343/4 'Revised Draft of the Bill', 6 February 1951 32
  • Notes 33
  • Three: Productivity Policy 37
  • Four Anti-Monopoly Policy 55
  • Conclusions 69
  • Notes 70
  • Five: Private Industrial Investment 74
  • Six Whatever Happened to the British Warfare State? the Ministry of Supply, 1945-1951 91
  • Notes 113
  • Seven: Taxation Policy 117
  • Part Two the Sectors 135
  • Eight the Cotton Industry: A Middle Way Between Nationalisation and Self-Government? 137
  • Notes 160
  • Nine: The Motor Car Industry 162
  • Ten the Shipbuilding Industry1 186
  • Appendix 10.1 204
  • Appendix 10.1 208
  • Eleven: The Film Industry 212
  • Index 237
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