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British Leyland

Volume 933: debated on Monday 13 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what proportion of the public funds allocated to Leyland Cars so far and due to be allocated under the Ryder or any modified plan is for the production of components or purchase of component manufacturers, as opposed to the proportion allocated for facilities for the assembly of cars.

Public funds made available to British Leyland to assist in furthering the company's plans are not allocated in the way suggested by the hon. Member. They are provided as the public contribution to the total funding requirements of British Leyland after assessment of the performance, the prospects and the major plans of the company.

Can the Minister give the House an assurance that he understands the value of the components industry, whose exports overtook that of the vehicle industry last year? Will he therefore make certain that due protection is given in the British Leyland plans to the position of component makers so that our strength in this area is not weakened?

Since many of my own constituents work in the components industry, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I understand its relevance. It is my understanding that any expansion of component manufacture by British Leyland will be financed out of the profits of that activity by British Leyland.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is great anxiety among the work force of the bus and truck division because funds from Ryder have not been released to promote the programme in that area, giving rise to great anxiety about future employment prospects because of this delay? Is my hon. Friend further aware that within the last half-hour I have had a telephone call assuring me that workers will appear on these premises tomorrow in order to meet the Minister to discuss this situation?

I am a little mystified by what my hon. Friend says. The finance and the plans of the truck and bus division have not been affected by the review which has been carried out by the NEB of the car division. If my hon. Friend has some further details and cares to communicate them to me, I shall look into them.

Do the Government intend to add to the information available to Parliament and the public about the way in which the Government and the NEB have arrived at their decisions about financial assistance to British Leyland? Does he accept that, although we have realised that much of this information is commercially confidential and that this House is no forum for commercial decisions, the main information coming to Members and to the public at the moment about the options available to the Government is from well-informed Press leaks rather than from any other statement of fact?

I am not sure whether they are well-informed or ill-informed. But the hon. Gentleman has answered his own question by saying that a lot of this information is commercially confidential. In any case, I draw his attention to the fact that there is at least one Question on the Order Paper dealing with this specific matter.

Why should not British Leyland have a share of the profitable components sector when companies like Lucas, Dunlop and GKN pay more tax to overseas Governments than to our own? At least, Leyland's profits would stay in this country.

Certainly British Leyland is not precluded from components manufacture. In fact, before public money on a large scale was put into British Leyland the company was already a large-scale component manufacturer.

As the Minister and the NEB have chosen the most expensive new model in cash flow terms but the most profitable in the long term, does he anticipate having to provide more funds in the short term to Leyland, or will he find other ways, with the components industry, of getting the NEB to help?

The point about further finance for British Leyland and the provision of it was covered adequately in my right hon. Friend's statement on the 26th of last month, and that has already been discussed and debated at length in the House on many occasions.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he has received the review of British Leyland from the NEB.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he intends to publish the NEB's review of British Leyland.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Is he aware that the employees and managers of British Ley-land are lobbying hon. Members to support Scheme A, when we do not know what the rest of the alphabet holds? Will he seek at an early date to publish the alternatives put by Leyland to its employees, on the basis of which they are lobbying hon. Members?

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, the report which has been made by British Leyland and upon which comments have been made by the National Enterprise Board contains so much commercially confidential information that to publish it in detail would disadvantage British Leyland at the hands of its competitors. When he made his statement on 26th May, however, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that he wished to give the House the maximum possible information so that it could come to sensible conclusions when these matters were debated in detail.

Will the Minister take this opportunity to assure the House that he is willing to put at least an abridged version of the report in the Library? That would be to follow precedent. Does he recognise that one of the main problems, resulting in our having so little faith in the whole Ryder approach to the subject, is that Ryder has given wildly optimistic premises on which British Leyland has been developed through him?

The hon. Gentleman has tendencies to speak spontaneously about Lord Ryder. His faith in Lord Ryder is not relevant to this Question. What I have said to the House, and have said in answer to the hon. Gentleman, is that we shall provide the maximum amount of information that can be made available to the House without damaging the commercial prospects of British Leyland as against its competitors.

When Leyland's total production of vehicles in 1976 was 60,000 down on 1975, itself a record low year, how does the hon. Gentleman intend to get the necessary very high levels of production for the new Mini project? That at least is something about which he should tell the House.

The question of production levels at Leyland has been one of great concern to the Government, and it is one of the reasons why we have decided, in agreement with the National Enterprise Board, that it is not appropriate at this time to come to a definitive decision about the development plans for Leyland. At the same time, it ought to be pointed out that since Leyland's return to full operation, following the dispute earlier this year, the output that the company has been achieving is outstanding and gives good promise for prospects in the future.

Is the Minister aware that this area of commercial confidentiality is causing concern to the work force and trade union representatives? To what extent will the workers be allowed to participate in the activities of British Leyland if they are not involved in this area?

We want the workers to be involved in this area, and that is why we have been seeking to engage them in a dialogue with management over the preparation of a planning agreement with Leyland. Unfortunately, not all the workers are prepared to take part in the participation machinery. I urge all hon. Members to encourage the workers to do so in order that they can be given the information to which they have a right.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is not just a matter of producing cars but that the cars must be sold? Will he give an assurance that the NEB and the Department will take account of the views of distributors, particularly about quality of production and the model mix?

Those are important matters, and, understandably, distributors make these points to us. There is a paradoxical situation in that when there is a demand the output is not satisfactory and that when the output is satisfactory lack of confidence has reduced demand. It is a sad situation, and that is why we must look carefully at further financing.