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Title: The rôle of government in the decline of the British shipbuilding industry, 1945-1980
Author: Connors, Duncan Philip
ISNI:       0000 0004 2680 5480
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2009
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HE Transportation and Communications ; JN1187 Scotland ; JF Political institutions (General) ; HB Economic Theory ; JN101 Great Britain ; HC Economic History and Conditions