British Leyland

Oral Answers to Questions — Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1979.

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Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

Recently, but not very recently.

Photo of Mr Hilary Miller Mr Hilary Miller , Bromsgrove and Redditch

In view of the chairman's wish to follow up the result of the ballot on the corporate plan and the ballot currently being organised on pay and productivity arrangements for the work force, if the chairman asked at the last meeting how long the Government would take to consider a request for funds, what reply did my right hon. Friend give?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

I think that the chairman of British Leyland is realistic. He knows that the Government will need some time to consider any request for funds for BL that is made via the NEB. The NEB may have its own comments to make. The Government will need some time in which to consider so important a question.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

Does the Secretary of State accept that British Leyland is under the NEB more by accident than by design? That being so, will he give a commitment that if the workers have backed the plan for British Leyland, the Government will do so as well?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The hon. Gentleman misses the point that was made by a number of hon. Members, including his hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield). What the Government will need to consider is the performance, and likely performance, of British Leyland management and workers. The reaction of the work force to the current pay and conditions proposals put to them by British Leyland management will have more significance in the Government's mind than the result of the ballot.

Photo of Sir David Price Sir David Price , Eastleigh

Will my right hon. Friend take the occasion to discuss with the chairman of British Leyland, quite apart from any question of hiving off, whether the large factories are not too big? Is not there a great deal of evidence that modern British managers and workers are not very good when the unit sizes are as large as they are in British Leyland, and that all the evidence points to the small being beautiful in manufacturing?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

Yes. I am sure that there is some strength in what my hon. Friend says, but the chairman of British Leyland has to cope with the reality.

Photo of Mr Ron Leighton Mr Ron Leighton , Newham North East

Does the Minister agree that British Leyland is under the control of the National Enterprise Board only because private enterprise failed the motor industry, and that it cannot be expected to turn round in 12 months? It could well mean a decade of public investment in this industry. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we cannot face the prospect of Britain without a viable motor industry, which might mean selective import controls?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

The forced mergers that the Labour Government produced in the motor car industry tended, in the event, to fail, while the forced merger in the electrical power industry, over which the same Labour Government presided, tended to succeed.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

Will my right hon. Friend please take this opportunity to confirm that it is no part of the philosophy of the Government to allow the management of British Leyland to create a State subsidised monopoly in sports car production if there are private enterprise buyers willing and able to carry on competitive production of other cars in the range that British Leyland seem unfit or unable to carry on producing?

Photo of Sir Keith Joseph Sir Keith Joseph , Leeds North East

As I have said, British Leyland today met one particular private sector potential manufacturer of sports cars to discuss the possibility of a sale.