Motor Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:40 pm on 12th December 1983.

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Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames 6:40 pm, 12th December 1983

I shall not give way, because other hon. Members wish to speak.

Export sales in western Europe increased by 26 per cent. between 1981 and 1982. BL is successfully going back into Europe for sales. As a whole, BL is well on course to break even at the trading level this year, and that will be the first time for many years that that has been achieved.

The progress of Jaguar has, if anything, been more spectacular. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Dagenham that that is due just to the exchange rate. It is not. Productivity is not improved from 1·5 cars per man in 1980 to 3·5 cars per man in the first half of this year because of the exchange rate. It also does not bring about great improvements in quality and reliability. That has been due to the hard work of the work force and management.

Jaguar sales in the United States in 1982 were 120 per cent. above those in 1981 and 300 per cent. above those in 1980, and that is a remarkable achievement. Hon. Members will be aware of the contribution that Scotch whisky makes to the United Kingdom balance of payments. Far be it from me, especially as a Scot, to say anything derogatory about that distinguished beverage, but Jaguar cars now look set to overtake Scotch whisky as the prime United Kingdom export to the United States.

Those are just a few examples of the progress that has been made. None of them could have been achieved without the dedication and hard work of management and work force, and I am happy to pay tribute to them. The company has now reached the stage where it is realistic to start planning its return to private ownership. No one should expect that to happen overnight. The company is very large and, as with many large companies, some parts are doing better than others. I am confident that 1984 will see the first steps in the return of BL to private ownership. That is our priority for BL, and I assure the House that we intend to see it through.