HC Deb 27 November 1968 vol 774 cc491-3
19. Mr. Newens

asked the Minister of Technology if he is satisfied that the Ford Motor Company is continuing to honour the assurances given to Her Majesty's Government in 1960 in connection with the acquisition of the British-owned shareholding by the parent United States organisation in that year; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Benn

I have really answered this in replying to my hon. Friend's supplementary to his previous Question. At my request the company have provided information which satisfies me that they are honouring the assurances given in 1960 which are still applicable.

Mr. Newens

Is it not a fact that the increased manufacture of components overseas which could be produced in this country inevitably will add to our import bill?

Mr. Benn

My hon. Friend raises a very real point. One can either look at individual examples or at the overall effect on the balance of payments. I think that we have to look at both. It is a fact that, as this company and others develop, they will be thinking of Europe in a much freer way than any national company looking simply at its manufacturing capacity in the United Kingdom. That is the nature of the problem which I tried to describe just now.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the statement by a Ford executive yesterday that Ford Motors has lost £25 million in exports this year through industrial unrest? Is he aware that this is a two-way bargain and that, if we want all the benefits, we must get our own house in order?

Mr. Benn

That is why my right hon. Friend the First Secretary has been engaged in these discussions. We are living in an increasingly open world, where investment decisions will be taken according to a variety of factors and where the brain drain will draw away people who wish to be employed elsewhere at higher salaries. That is the nature of the change, and it is a very important one.

Mr. Heller

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very strong rumours that the Ford Motor Company is dividing its export programme in the sense that North Atlantic exports, in particular of the Escort, will take place from Genk in Belgium, and that Commonwealth exports of it will take place from Britain? Irrespective of what hon. Gentlemen opposite may say, this is a very important question. and I would like my right hon. Friend to indicate whether he has heard the rumours and, if so, what action the Government intend to take about them?

Mr. Benn

I appreciate the importance of what my hon. Friend says. Some time ago, I initiated discussions with the motor companies about developments of this kind. If he would care to get in to touch with me specifically about this point, I should be happy to hear from him.

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