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

There is the voice of the Scottish National Party. I hope that every Scotsman who works in Coventry will read that, and that every mother and father in Scotland who have a son working in Coventry will read it, too. The workers in Linwood have a higher morality than the leadership of the SNP, as represented by that remark. They have not looked for a solution that would allow their fellow workers to go to the wall. Nor should they, and nor would I. But the SNP has already said this, and the hon. Gentleman has just said it again. I shall make sure that that is branded on them from Land's End to John o' Groats.

I was shocked by that remark, and have lost the thread a little. I expect that sort of thing from the Tory Party. I had forgotten that the hon. Member was a Tory only two or three years ago. He was one of their converts. St. Paul did better than that.

I deal with Linwood alone not because I neglect the Midlands—my hon. Friends from the Midlands know that we have fought this fight together—but because we have particular problems in Linwood. It is a small town, and if this work had gone it would have been a dead town—a mini-Jarrow. I thank the Cabinet for not letting that happen. Of course, I applaud them for having a rescue operation.

But it is not enough. We must try to find some means of alleviating the immediate problems. I understand the problems of bringing in the Avenger. We shall need a lot of solidarity on questions like that, too. But this kind of weight cannot be put on our town immediately. We should diversify the use of the pressing factory and the aluminium die-casting factory there. Diversification must also be looked for in the Stoke factory, which can do contractual work for other Coventry firms. Such solutions must be found to hold the best of our skilled workers, not only because they require it for the sake of their families and their own wellbeing but in order to keep the core of skilled work that we shall build up from August.

I welcome a rescue operation, but I deplore the fact that it will mean such an immediate drop in employment in my area. I find totally unacceptable the initial figures suggested. I welcome the fact that it seems that Linwood will be put on a more secure basis after that. It will require understanding—understanding way beyond the comprehension of the hon. Member for Henley—between the workers at Linwood and those at Coventry to secure that objective.

I have argued from the beginning that the right solution is public ownership. When we are dealing, as the hon. Member for Henley said, with a multinational company, one thing that we can call in aid is the power of the State. That should have been used. We should have taken over Chrysler on Mr. Riccardo's own valuation, which, apparently, was nil. We should have held the employment situation until the company picked up. We should have given some of the boys in the research and design centre their heads, to see what they could come up with in terms of the new concepts that they are bursting to get through to the Cabinet. We should have seen in what way we could assist speeding up contractual arrangements on behalf of British Leyland, in the earlier delivery of working vehicles. Only at that point should we have considered slimming down the labour force and moving towards an amalgamation, in two or three years, of Chrysler and Leyland, to make a giant, publicly-owned British motor vehicle industry, rather than just a car industry, which would compete with the rest of the world. I regret that despite the policy that we worked on between 1970 and 1974 we have not found it possible to achieve this solution. I shall continue to press for this solution.

We are in a very deep crisis—deeper than some hon. Members believe—and it does not concern only Chrysler. I do not believe that there is any means of solving it until we take real power from the small groups—who, in a small, tight circle, control the fate of men—and bring it down to our level and into our own hands.