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.
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.
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.
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?
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.