HC Deb 22 January 1973 vol 849 cc28-9
24. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry why the Government have not yet agreed with the liquidator a purchase price for the assets of Rolls-Royce Limited.

Mr. Onslow

Under the heads of agreement for the sale of the assets, the determination of the price is a matter between the receiver of Rolls-Royce Ltd. and Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd. which have referred it to an independent expert.

Mr. Whitehead

I am sure that the Minister has seen Press reports that although the liquidator's asking price for assets was around £170 million, the latest offer from the company was only one quarter of that sum, too little to allow the shareholders to expect any return whatever. As we are at the second anniversary of the bankruptcy and as many creditors have not been paid, will not the Government acknowledge that the gap is so wide that the independent assessor has a task which is almost beyond him?

Mr. Onslow

The hon. Gentleman has no right to draw that conclusion. The procedures which are now being followed were those agreed by all the parties to the selling of the assets, including the receiver. An independent expert has been appointed by the two sides to determine a fair price for the assets. Even though delay must involve hardship to outstanding creditors and shareholders, I cannot accept that the Government should intervene so that more than a fair price is paid. The size of the gap shows how inappropriate it would be for the Government to influence the matter.

Mr. Redmond

Is my hon. Friend aware that many firms, some in my constituency, are owed money by Rolls-Royce, which they require for investment in machine tools? Cannot this process be speeded up in the interests of the economy?

Mr. Onslow

There are firms which are in such a position in many constituencies throughout the country. My general experience is that they have been able to obtain assistance from banks and other sources in bridging the situation. If my hon. Friend has any cases which he wishes to draw to my attention. I shall be glad to meet him.