Planning Agreements

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1976.

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Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many planning agreements have been concluded with major industrial companies.

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

My Department has exploratory discussions in hand with a number of leading companies in manufacturing industry, following discussions with representatives of both sides of industry. I hope to make a further statement shortly.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

Is the correct answer to that Question "None, Sir"? Will the Secretary of State accept that some of us on the Opposition side of the House rejoice in that true answer? Will he refrain from concluding planning agreements of this kind in a hurry?

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should rejoice. In most of the discussions I have had with leading companies about planning agreements, they have recognised the value in getting their work force more involved in planning discussions. Part of our problem in Britain is performance and getting the best out of our investment, and even where this is comparable with some of our international competitors, discussions at plant level about planning agreements are worth while.

Photo of Mr Ivor Clemitson Mr Ivor Clemitson , Luton East

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to say which companies are involved? If not, why not?

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

I cannot do so yet. We have in mind sectors of British industry which are at the heart of our export performance. Discussions are at an advanced stage. I hope to be in a position in the very near future to let my hon. Friend and the House know which companies these are.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King , Bridgwater

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that part of the planning agreement system is that companies receive the value of Government information forecasts? If that is so, will he confirm that part of the Government input to these discussions will be the recent public expenditure White Paper? If it is, what credence should companies attach to it?

Photo of Mr Eric Varley Mr Eric Varley , Chesterfield

Anyone can make points like that. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that a good deal of information is already given and that there is an interchange of information between companies and the Government. It is essential that the work forces join in that information and discussion. The hon. Gentleman is not right to disparage planning agreements. Certainly his pessimism is not shared by leading British companies.