Rover Group has successfully concluded negotiations for the sale of Leyland Bus and the majority of Unipart. Negotiations are taking place for the disposal of majority interests of Jaguar-Rover-Australia and of Istel. As I told the House on 2 December 1986, commercial discussions on Leyland Trucks are being taken forward. The best way to develop the other businesses in the group will be considered in the context of the Rover Group's corporate plan, which I am studying.
In thanking my right hon. Friend for that helpful reply, may I remind him that Jaguar, the first company to be liberated from the group, has just announced vacancies for 700 more men, and that last time he spoke in the House about Land Rover's future he looked to the prospect of either a trade buyer or privatisation? Since no trade buyer appears to be in prospect, may we look forward to privatisation?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out to the House the enormous success of Jaguar, not just recently but for the past few years, as a splendid example of what can be done in the private sector. My hon. Friend is entirely right to remind me of what I said about Land Rover. The company is to be retained within the Rover Group while preparations are made for its later flotation or trade sale. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's preference for a flotation.
No, Sir. I do not think that I could agree with that. Many of the separate bodies that have been sold off have been loss-making and therefore will not make the situation worse.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that many of us accept that some of the privatisation schemes have been good for the future of the British motor industry, not least for Jaguar, and that the continuing entity of Austin Rover is of crucial importance? Does he agree that we must consider the fact that Austin Rover is building up a good export record, has a great future as long as it is given a fair wind, and is not a lame duck but an emergent swan?
I agree with what my hon. Friend has said, as I so often do on matters relating to the motor industry. Austin Rover's export record is encouraging, as was its market share last month. I am sure that my hon. Friend is looking forward as eagerly as I am to discussing the corporate plan.
Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the Rover Group, even as now constituted, shows enough interest and involvement in matters of public interest as well as in its own profit, especially in the context of exports, to which he has referred, where Rover parts may be used for exporting things built up from them? If there is a change in the company's structure, can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that that aspect is properly safeguarded?
I wonder whether I can persuade my hon. Friend to curb his natural impatience for news and wait until he hears the result of the Government's study of the corporate plan. I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.
Why will the Secretary of State not admit that Jaguar's success has everything to do with the efforts of its management and work force and nothing to do with its ownership? Why will he not tell Mr. Graham Day to get on with the job of getting Austin Rover's share of the domestic market back to its level of 23 per cent. eight years ago instead of simply accepting the present level of 15 per cent. and declaring more redundancies among the people who work at Austin Rover and its suppliers?
I certainly agree that Jaguar's success has been due to the efforts of its management and work force, but it is quite wrong not to take its corporate structure into account as well. The fact that Jaguar has been privatised has been a major factor in the company's success.
As to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I hope that he will join me in helping today to achieve the aim which he and other hon. Members have in mind, which is to increase Austin Rover's share of the domestic market. I am very glad to say that at the moment it is running above the level that the hon. Gentleman stated.