Enterprise Initiative

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 1:33 pm on 4th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr John Butcher Mr John Butcher , Coventry South West 1:33 pm, 4th March 1988

Yes, and the Lucas company is getting into higher and higher added value. It is becoming more and more successful in its aerospace efforts. It is running a very successful Girling subsidiary. There have been redundancies, but those who observe that market would agree that the company could not have pursued its strategic objectives without some redundancies. It is always difficult for a company faced with strong markets in which it does not have an appropriate investment to decide whether to continue to fight in those markets or whether to fight where they can win. I believe that Lucas has made the correct decision.

Hon. Gentlemen should then move on and talk to Malcolm Fraser at the Council for National Academic Awards. He has some excellent ideas on management development and how to produce a modular system of qualifications for managers which builds bridges from the shop floor to academia and out again. It is a flexible system of management training. Clark Brundin, at Warwick university, together with Khumar Battacharya, has shown that universities can open their doors wide to the private sector and gain immense advantage from it. They, too, have a great deal to say on how to build Britain's industrial and commercial renaissance.

Hon. Members may like to talk to John Kerridge at Fisons. He has taken an agro-chemical company into new areas, higher added value, pharmaceuticals and science-based products. James Pilditch has produced excellent work on best management practice in books and journals of his own authorship. If hon. Members are worried about textiles and the so-called older industries— I have never liked that term—they may care to talk to Louis Van Praag who runs a company called Sabre Textiles.

I know that it is unorthodox to mention names, but they are typical of people who learnt from experience and brought a new dimension to management and a new vigour to their companies.

Design is not an extra and it is not about making products pretty; it is about the concept of a product or a service from its beginning—from the core outwards, It is about design for manufacture or maintenance. It is about fitness for purpose and, ultimately, a product's aesthetic appearance in the past four years British companies have at long last woken up to this and many are starting to reap the benefits.

Quality is not a bureaucratic obsession within a company. To repeat a phrase that I have used previously, quality is about selling products that do not come back to customers who do. It is one of the key job creators, as Bill Jordan in the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers would confirm. Quality management is now a well-rehearsed science. It does not cost money. Zero defects are now entering company cultures throughout the country.

We in our enterprise initiative support quality, design and marketing. I pay tribute to the Design Council which has run the consultancy programmes for design, the Institute of Marketing and Tony McBurnie, who is administering that side of the programme, and to the Production Engineering Research Association which has helped us to pursue our objectives in improved manufacturing practice.

During the debate we heard a great deal about management and I have a little more to say about]t. In the past we have learnt, as disseminators and distributors of grants, that it is no good whatever to invest large sums to reduce the investment costs of a company if the people at the heart of that company are not professional and of the highest capability. Company performance is determined more than anything else by the calibre of the people at the centre of its decision-making process. We as a nation must make a major investment in management skills and those of our work force. When John Egan competes with Mercedes it is not Jaguar v Mercedes, but the skills of the people of Coventry in his work force competing with the skills of the people of Stuttgart. If his people are better trained and educated, he can win that battle. If they are not, he will lose it. John Egan and many other chief executives have pursued their objectives in enhancing the quality of their work forces. That is something about which the whole House should be united and which progressive trade unionists have endorsed over a long time. In my view, the best managers and the more enlightened trade unionists are now coming together and are unanimous on that proposition. Another change that has taken place in the United Kingdom during the past six or seven years is that the "us and them" mentality is at long last disappearing.

As far as the initiative itself is concerned, and the current progress, I can happily report to the House that there has been a major response to the marketing campaign—