Does not my right hon. Friend accept that one of the major problems of British Leyland is reflected in the fact that the price of a new Mini has trebled over the last five years, in a period when the retail price index and average wages have risen by only about twice? Does he accept that this means that a smaller and smaller proportion of new cars has been bought by individuals?
Does not the Minister agree, therefore, that one of the solutions may be for British Leyland not to go up-market but to concentrate on automating its production of a more standard vehicle, which will maintain the labour at British Leyland by increasing throughput and reducing the real cost, and also perhaps meet the real need for this type of car?
As we have the Secretary of State answering Questions and not the Minister of State, perhaps we shall have a more objective exchange of views. The "Easy Ryder Plan" has been totally overturned. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the report and recommendations arising from the new solution will have to be that much tougher now as a result of all that has happened, even if a no-strike agreement or a guarantee—putting it higher—with the unions is achieved in order to try to get back to a million vehicles per annum?
The National Enterprise Board and ' the Chairman of British Leyland have told me that they want to see the participation arrangements strengthened. The arrangements were set in train two and a half years ago, and they want to ensure that they have a successful company. It is true that two of the most important ingredients of the Ryder strategy have not been met, namely, the company has not held its share of the United Kingdom market and has not generated sufficient internal resources.
When he next meets the Chairman of British Leyland, will the Secretary of State point out to him the third criterion that the money advanced by the House was for capital expenditure and not for meeting recurrent costs? Will he inform us now whether any guarantee was given by himself or by the National Enterprise Board for the recent drawings by the company?
The recent drawings were discussed with my Department and I understand that they will be sufficient until about the end of March. Further financial requirements for British Leyland will depend on the revised corporate plan which is being discussed by the Leyland board and its work force for submission to the NEB.
When the Secretary of State says that he will give his unstinting support to the Edwardes Plan instead of the Ryder Plan, does that mean that he will give support when the going gets tough and there are proposals for redundancies, which may well be necessary, and, indeed, when plant closures may be found necessary, as the CPRS Report said in 1975? If he does, he is entitled to ask for the support of the Opposition.
I want to see British Leyland a successful company. I want to support all those in British Leyland, including the Chairman, who want to achieve objectives as a substantial British company, not only arresting the decline but improving its market share where it can. Unfortunately, that has not taken place over the last two years. I think that the matter is being tackled now and being discussed with the work force.
Will it not be difficult for a chairman, whatever his qualities and qualifications, who is on relatively short secondment from another company and therefore quite secure, irrespective of what happens to British Leyland, to obtain full co-operation from managers and workers whose jobs he is putting at risk? Does not this critically difficult task demand a man of longer and deeper commitment?
I have said publicly that I support Mr. Edwardes's appointment. Not only do I support it, but the whole of the National Enterprise Board does, including the four senior trade union leaders who are members of that board. The best way of securing jobs in British Leyland is to ensure that there is comparability of performance and continuity of production. That is what Michael Edwardes wants to achieve, as does the vast majority of those who work in British Leyland.
In view of the obvious difficulty for the Government of managing nationalised industries—we are coming to the subject of steel later in Question Time—what does the Secretary of State think of the proposal of the National Executive Committee of his party for a huge expansion of nationalisation, both of industries and firms, in Labour's "Programme for Britain 1976"?
Can the hon. Gentleman confirm whether it is correct, as has been reported, that the equivalent Japanese output is 43 vehicles per man per year, which is an enormously higher figure than ours? Is not this difference in output really the key to the future of British Leyland?
While it is true that some of the productivity levels of some of our main competitors are higher than at British Leyland, I should warn the hon. Gentleman that direct comparison is not exactly of like with like because we are not necessarily talking about the same vehicle types.