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Planning Agreements

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many planning agreements have now been concluded in the public and private sectors, respectively.

A statement will be laid before Parliament when a planning agreement has been made.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the absence of any planning agreements in either the public or the private sector is an indication of the total failure of the voluntary principle? Is he aware that the failure to achieve planning agreements in the public sector is little short of incredible? Does he agree that the Government's industrial strategy can be seen to be without substance and effect as manifest by the level of investment and employment?

Although I generally agree with my hon. Friend, on this occasion I find it difficult to do so. We are proceeding with the planning agreement policy in both the public and private sectors. We hope to make some announcement shortly. The principle of voluntary planning agreements was set out in "Regeneration of British Industry" and in the Industry Bill. It was endorsed by my hon. Friend by his votes in the House for those policies.

When planning agreements are agreed and an announcement is made, will the Minister tell the House that the likes of the toolmakers at British Leyland will be involved in the discussions prior to the agreements being made? Does he agree that if the toolmakers, who are vital to the car industry, had been consulted a little more the Government would have achieved more flexibility in the prices and incomes policy, which would have meant that the present chaos at British Leyland would not have been with us?

I am interested to hear that an hon. Member who voted for two compulsory incomes policies and has supported his right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) should now be miraculously converted to a voluntary incomes policy from no incomes policy at all. It is easy for him to change his mind when in Opposition instead of following his Whips when in Government. The whole process of the planning agreement discussions involved workers through their trade union representatives. It is open to the toolmakers at Leyland to take part in the participation machinery at Leyland, just as it is possible for the workers at Chrysler to take part in planning agreement discussions there.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the planning agreement with Chrysler will be welcomed on this side of the House? Is he aware that considerable progress has been achieved already by Chrysler on the basis of the joint reconstruction programme that has been worked out between that company and the Government?

This is a matter about which we hear little from the Opposition because it is one of the many successes achieved by this Government. When we are able to make further announcements on these matters, Opposition hon. Members, whose negativism is becoming the symbol of their party's existence, will once again be shown to be frustrated.

Because the Chrysler company in the United States has made profits and has taken the British Government for a £40 million ride, what do the Government think they can tell Chrysler about running a business?

I am interested to hear that the hon. Member's appreciation of United States capitalism is greater than for the success that he can attribute to British capitalism.