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Motor Industry (Productivity)

Volume 933: debated on Monday 13 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the level of productivity in the motor industry expressed in percentage terms, compared with the level of productivity in the motor industries of West Germany, France and Japan, respectively.

I refer the hon. Member to the report on the future of the British car industry by the CPRS which concluded that, in terms of vehicles per employee, productivity in the British motor industry appeared to be approximately 30 per cent. below French and German levels and 60 per cent. below the Japanese level in 1973. I should remind the hon. Member that comparisons of this sort are complicated not only by product mix but by the degree of vertical integration, the relative level of labour costs and the amount and quality of capital equipment with which employees have to work.

We realise that the Minister would like to do his best to fudge the obvious message contained in those figures, but does he not agree that the reason for lower productivity probably has something to do with the level of direct taxation in this country, which seems to discourage people from working hard? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with that point of view? If he does not agree, will he say what other Government policies are the cause?

There is another obvious answer, and that is that the private sector in this country has not done as well as the private sector in other countries.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the only obvious message that arises from this Question is the desire of the Opposition to run down the British worker on every possible occasion, and that because of that the level of capital investment in the British motor industry is far below the level of investment in the industry's competitors in Germany and Japan?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Little that is constructive comes from the Opposition Benches when we deal with industrial policy. Indeed, the question is perhaps typified by the dormant attitude of the Opposition Front Bench. We look forward to some maiden intervention from the Opposition Front Bench today.

Will the right hon. Gentleman stop siding with this senseless sniping of platitudes? Will he try to give a constructive answer and tell the House whether the plan for the new Mini provides for Japanese levels of production and productivity?

Obviously the aim of the industry must be to attain levels of productivity comparable to those of its major competitors. It is for that reason that the Government have been holding detailed discussions, in a tripartite environment, with the management and workers. We have been involved in order to find out what we can do to help, but the primary responsibility must rest with the industry.