HC Deb 06 April 1971 vol 815 cc238-40
Q3. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent talks with Mr. Henry Ford concerning industrial relations and future investment intentions.

Q7. Mr. Edelman

asked the Prime Minister what further communication he has received from Mr. Henry Ford in connection with the investment policy in Great Britain of the Ford Motor Company.

Q10. Mr. Eadie

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the car industry as a result of his Official meeting on 15th March with the representatives of the Ford Motor Company.

Mr. Maudling

I have been asked to reply.

I would refer the hon. Members to the Answer which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave to a Question from the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on 18th March. Mr. Ford has since told my right hon. Friend that he was encouraged by the discussion.—[Vol. 813, c. 396–7.]

Mr. Hamilton

I do not think that the Prime Minister on that occasion referred to the wage settlement then pending at Fords. Did the Prime Minister indicate what kind of wage settlement he would like to see at Fords? Does the right hon. Gentleman now concur with the view of the Secretary of State for Employment that it is a very good agreement, that is, 16 per cent. in each of the next two years?

Mr. Maudling

I think that what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is that the agreement, so far as it provides for steadier working over a period, has good features, but the actual level of the settlement, as they have both said, is disturbingly high.

Mr. Edelman

Since American financial interests now control the major part of the British motor industry, and since those interests are often in conflict with Britain's wider economic strategy, will the right hon. Gentleman consider setting up a more formal and continuing machinery of consultation, to avoid the hectoring and widely-resented attitudes displayed by Mr. Henry Ford?

Mr. Maudling

I do not accept at all that the American motor firms in this country operate in conflict with the wider interests or policy of this country. In fact, the Ford Motor Company has over the years made a wholly outstanding contribution to British exports, and if it were not for some of the wildcat strikes it would be better still.

Mr. Eadie

But since the Prime Minister is continuing to boast about how he is standing up to trade unionists, will the right hon. Gentleman convey to the Prime Minister that it is time he stood up for the British people, and did not allow American industrialists to come here and denigrate British people and Great Britain?

Mr. Maudling

I do not accept that that is what they do. American industrialists have made a great contribution to our economy, not least the economy of Scotland.

Sir F. Bennett

Could my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister help us as to the purport of some of the questions from Labour hon. Members? Is is being suggested that Mr. Henry Ford should be encouraged or discouraged by the events of the past few days at Fords?

Mr. Maudling

It is a little difficult for me to discern from hon. Members opposite exactly what they are talking about.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The right hon. Gentleman said, in answer to an earlier supplementary question, that Mr. Henry Ford II had said that he was encouraged by the discussions with the Prime Minis- ter. Did the Prime Minister make it clear to Mr. Ford that he was, apparently, pursuing a totally different wages policy in the private sector as compared with the public sector?

Mr. Maudling

No, certainly not, because my right hon. Friend is not doing so.

Mr. Tugendhat

While agreeing with what my right hon. Friend said about the relationship between Britain and the American-controlled motor companies, may I ask him whether he does not agree that the very substantial proportion of our economy now controlled by foreign-owned international concerns demands new methods of consultation on a continuing basis with the heads of these concerns? Is this not becoming increasingly necessary?

Mr. Maudling

The growth of international companies is a phenomenon of this decade, and they are still growing fast. But it has been my experience in Government that the co-operation which the British Government receive from foreign investors in this country is remarkably good.

Mr. Heffer

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Mr. Henry Ford II was talking "bosh" about British industrial relations? Is he aware that figures I have, which were secured by the Library Department, partly from the United States, prove beyond doubt that, in both official and unofficial strikes, the record in the Ford plants in the United States is much worse than has even been the case in Britain?

Mr. Maudling

I do not carry the figures in my head but I should have thought that developments in the last 24 hours in the dispute would have caused Mr. Ford to doubt what British labour was trying to do.