Orders of the Day — Motor Vehicle Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th December 1975.

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Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West 12:00 am, 16th December 1975

This is one reason for using the skills and knowledge of the work force. I was saying that the opposite is not true. Agreed, without investment we shall not get productivity, but if investment is not intelligently used we shall not get productivity, either. That is an additional argument for listening to the workers, but there are other factors.

There are possibilities that, through the operations of multinationals, particularly in respect of the system of price transfer, some of the losses that we have been discussing by Chrysler are less than they are said to be, for the very simple reason that they use the Chrysler Switzerland organisation to handle their overseas sales. As a result, the price per car exported to Europe is about half the price per car of the other major British companies. The profit is made through Geneva, where there is a more favourable tax system for them.

So, for all those reasons—export controls, which lead to dealers pushing Simca, transfer pricing and the fact that they are offering special inducements for the sale of Simca in Britain in competition with Chrysler UK—we should take some of Chrysler's difficulties with a pinch of salt.

Having said that, however, I do not accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Henley that we are not confronting a major crisis in the car industry and in Chrysler. Chrysler said that if it did not get assistance, it would go. I have tried to argue why this was. This is the problem that faced the Government. I cannot pretend that I am happy at the size of the figures referred to for the immediate run-down in my area. I know that the Secretary of State for Scotland would not suggest that I should feel any other way. I hate paying tribute on the basis of leaks, but it is clear that a considerable part of the Cabinet fought hard on this and that the Secretary of State for Scotland was one of those who fought.

We understand what employment is about in some of these areas. Despite the cheap remarks of the hon. Member for Henley, who has already left, I believe that the main forces which secured a change of policy in the Cabinet were, first, the labour force itself—the magnificent unity between works in the Midlands and in Scotland. Second, the wider Labour movement was not prepared to accept such a fall-out of jobs. Third, that section of the Labour movement which is properly represented in the Cabinet also fought to secure these changes.

If we had any difficulty, it was due to the deplorable fact that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) and even my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) raised the bogy of the SNP and the possibility of Scottish Chrysler going it alone. That was malicious, stupid and ignorant. If the company had gone it alone, Linwood would close tomorrow. As it happens, no engines are made at Linwood, so the end-product, presumably, would have been a kind of "Flintstone" car, running along the roads without an engine.