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Talbot Uk Ltd (Linwood Factory Sale)

Volume 12: debated on Wednesday 11 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State if he will take steps to ensure that any moneys gained by the proposed sale of plant and machinery by Talbot in its factory at Linwood will be returned to the Exchequer.

The assets involved are in the ownership of Talbot UK Ltd. and their disposal is primarily a matter for the company. Regional development grants made to Talbot UK Ltd, formerly Chrysler, are the subject of a set of conditions that are binding on a company for a period of four years from the relevant date of provision of the asset in question. Matters in connection with the recovery of grants made in respect of any asset still the subject of conditions are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.

Despite his smooth technical answer, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the outrage with which it will be received in the west of Scotland. Is he aware that this is a factory to which the whole community has contributed vast sums—certainly over £100 million of public money has gone into the factory and infrastructure—and that none, according to the Minister, is to come back? Will he therefore take the obvious course and stop the sale and use the plant and machinery to get the 1,000 men in the village of Linwood who are unemployed back to work in the factory?

It is not correct to say that none of the money will come back. If any of the assets involved are within the four-year period, repayment will have to be made to the Department of Industry. In regard to the hon. Gentleman's protestations about the factory and his request to stop the sale, I understand his depth of feeling, which is shared by every hon. Member. He must, however, realise that the Linwood car factory is dead. There is no prospect of another car factory at Linwood. My right hon. Friend and I are doing everything possible to bring new industries and jobs to the area. That is what the hon. Gentleman's constituents must demand above all else.

Does the Minister realise that the outrage in the area is compounded by the advertisement that appeared in many Scottish newspapers in September headed by Peugeot "Not every car firm can bring you good news" with, at the bottom, the words "Scotland on the move"? Does the Minister also realise that it is time that this kind of asset stripping was stopped because, together with the BNOC removal planned by the Government, there will soon be nothing left for Scotland?

There is no BNOC removal. The advertisement is not a matter for me or for my right hon. Friend.

Does my hon. Friend agree that Talbot's experience shows that customers create jobs? Where products cannot be sold, there is no future. Will he assure the House that the Government will not make public funds available where commercial prospects are dim, bleak, or even worse, as they were with Talbot?

To put matters positively, the Scottish Office and the Department of Industry are ready to give financial assistance to any viable investment that will provide new jobs in any part of Scotland.

Does the Minister realise that it is extremely offensive to the people of the area that, following the devastation caused by the company and by the Government to Linwood, the factory and its equipment are being sold off as the industrial sale of the century? In view of the special effort that the Government were making to bring alternative jobs to Linwood, will the Minister tell us how many jobs have actually been brought there and how many are in prospect?

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) knows better than most Opposition Members that the first thing that must be done to bring more jobs to Linwood is to dismantle the relic that is the Linwood car plant and provide modern facilities for modern jobs.

The hon. Gentleman has dodged the question. Not a single new job has been brought to Linwood or is in prospect, despite all the grand talk about special efforts.

At a recent meeting my right hon. Friend listed many items and outlined the steps that the Government and the Scottish Development Agency are taking to provide the facilities for new jobs to come to Linwood.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment.