National Enterprise Board (Capital Requirements)
Sir Keith Joseph (Leeds North East)
It was not considered enough in the Ryder plan, which the Government approved. The right hon. Gentleman has openly confessed that the Government took a wrong decision about monitoring. They backed monitoring for the progress of industrial relations and productivity. They did so for a certain while and now they have dropped it. They are entitled to do so, but it follows from their change of policy that the taxpayer is asked to bear an even larger risk than otherwise.
We recognise that British Leyland is like a great ship aground. The Government have set themselves, with the taxpayers' money, to enable it to float again. British Leyland may in the event be providing us with an experience that will discourage future Governments from embarking on such rescues. We shall soon see, because it is made clear in the NEB report on British Leyland's plan that it believes
The main problem facing the company"—
—that is, British Leyland—is really British Leyland Cars. The NEB
believes that British Leyland is right to give the highest priority to a programme of short term actions designed to produce success in 1978 and 1979.
Therefore, we shall soon see whether the plans of the Government and NEB will be proved successful.
We want British Leyland to succeed. Who, with any sense, could conceivably want it not to succeed? It would be inconceivable for anyone to want it not to succeed. As I have said, we want it to succeed, but that leaves in our minds a number of doubts. We have towards British Leyland great good will and considerable anxieties. Our anxieties are not ours alone. They are anxieties that are shared by many voting for all parties in all parts of the country. They are anxieties that are shared by many industries and many regions. There is anxiety that vast sums are to go to one firm in one industry in a limited number of regions. Therefore, we do not have to apologise for having anxieties coupled with our good will.
Our anxieties can be dispelled only by British Leyland. However, much we may admire Mr. Michael Edwardes—I shall come to him with admiration shortly—a few good speeches—he has made some first-class speeches—and a few months of good performance—and there have been some months of good performance—are not sufficient in themselves to end all our anxieties. We all share the same purpose—that the company should be profitably competitive. That implies that success must be achieved in design, quality and productivity.
What are our anxieties? I shall rehearse them relatively briefly. There are some who seem to be making war on parts of the company. One of our anxieties is whether this massive funding will weaken or strengthen the hand of that small minority.