Motor Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 12th December 1983.

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Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Oxford East 6:55 pm, 12th December 1983

I welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister on a number of grounds. I welcome them, first, on behalf of my constituents. The employees of British Leyland Cowley works will take great heart on hearing those comments. The achievements at that works, and the sacrifices that made those achievements possible, are memorable and worthy of our congratulation. I have a personal interest in that I own a motor vehicle dealership, and I welcome the Minister's remarks on the block exemption.

I welcome the Minister's assurances to my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Miller) about Nissan. There are many factors here that we must not overlook. A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to the present overcapacity in the market place. In Europe, overcapacity totals about 3 million units. In the United Kingdom the Austin-Rover group alone produced 480,000 units last year and plans to produce 510,000 units next year, but there is a productive capacity within Austin-Rover group of about 750,000 to 800,000 units. It is worrying that we should contemplate introducing an additional 200,000 units of capacity into a market that already possesses at least that capacity within the Austin-Rover group alone. When one adds the additional space that there must be at Dagenham, Ryton, Luton and Ellesmere Port, it is clear that we must be careful before we commit ourselves to such a project.

Secondly—I appreciate the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) may wish to attempt a brief summing-up—there is the cost of the project. Nissan has not yet announced its intention of coming here, but if it does the cost to the taxpayer will be considerable. We must consider that cost in relation to the net increase of real jobs in the industry. The Minister referred to the possible guarantee of minimum content. I draw his attention to a report in The Times of 8 December 1983: The latest plan is thought to be for a plant of no more than half that size"— half the size of the original project— to build a compact car with a much lower initial British content. The Japanese labour unions have made no secret of the fact that they are wary of exporting too large a proportion of the actual value of motor vehicles sold in Europe. It is hoped that if that proposition is made by Nissan, it will be strongly resisted by the Minister and his colleagues in the Department. That would be the thin end of the wedge, and if we allowed it we would rue the day. Lord Bruce-Gardyne has said, of the Nissan deal, that. The new jobs are what it is all about: and it is part of the ethos of the Department of Industry — not to mention the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Offices—that new jobs in place of those already in existence are a snip. That is what we are facing. The Nissan proposal is indeed a Trojan horse which offers the glitter of fresh new green field jobs, albeit at substantial cost to the taxpayer, but will result in the quiet loss of jobs in areas of the country such as that which I represent, which have no regional aid and no development status. We would do well to remember the classical precedent and to ensure that the disaster that befell the Greeks does not befall us.