Motor Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 12th December 1983.

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Photo of Alan Williams Alan Williams , Swansea West 5:50 pm, 12th December 1983

There may well be adjustments, but up to the present all the adjustments have tended to be in the wrong direction. What I have been trying to demonstrate and what I have been talking about is the predicament that the car industry has faced in the past few years. In so far as it has not been the responsibility of the Government, it has been the responsibility, particularly, of the two American car producers. But, in fairness to them, it roust be said that their action very often has been stimulated by what they have seen as the wrong-headed and harmful policies pursued by the Government.

The Government have blindly, destructively and doctrinally pursued their quack economic theories of monetarism, with the result that in 1981 alone 39,000 jobs were lost in the four major assembly firms. That is one third of the losses over the whole decade—eight times the losses suffered over the five years when the Labour Government were in office. Since the Government came to office, motor manufacturers have lost 110,000 jobs and the components industry has lost 150,000 jobs. At least 260,000 jobs have been lost as a result of the policies being pursued by the Government.

It is small wonder that the west midlands is littered with the empty shells of once prosperous factories. We shall no doubt hear from the Minister that we are going through a period of recovery—1983, the year of recovery. Let us explore this return to health in a little more detail. What the Government are really saying is that, after four years of office, production is now slightly ahead of the level it stood at when they came to office because 1979 was, of course, the previous record year. They would want carefully to ignore the dead bodies scattered on the battlefield over the intervening four years. How has this recovery come about? Is it, at last, the success of monetarism that we have been promised is always hovering somewhere near the horizon? Not at all; if anything, the answer is the exact opposite.

The country has been led by a Prime Minister who has preached continually about the financial prudence of the housewife and about living within one's means. Yet this temporary upturn has been created by a hire purchase boom. We shall ignore the fact that it happened to coincide with a general election year. Consumer spending on cars has risen by 15 per cent. A recovery and an electoral victory, all on good old-fashioned "tick"—the immoral extravagance that the Prime Minister spent the previous four years warning the country against. One must give it to the Tories: they never forget a good electoral trick. This is not the first time that they have done it. They knew it would work because in October 1958 they removed for the first time in the post-war period all hire purchase controls. A year later car sales were up 30 per cent. In October 1959 they had the "Never had it so good" election with the return of a Conservative Administration with, lo and behold, a majority of 100.