HC Deb 14 July 1975 vol 895 cc1042-4
13. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what is the presently estimated cost to public funds of maintaining a three-factory motor cycle industry; and if he will make a statement.

23. Mr. Biffen

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on his policy towards Norton Villiers Triumph in the light of the latest available evidence of the home and overseas commercial prospects for the motor cycle industry.

Mr. Varley

I am considering the policy to be followed by the Government towards the motor cycle industry and its cost to public funds, but I am not yet ready to make a statement.

Mr. Miller

When are we to have a decision on the motor cycle industry? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that this experiment in industrial organisation has been at the expense of Norton Villiers Triumph, and particularly at the expense of the taxpayer and the £10 million so far devoted to it?

Mr. Varley

I am not yet ready to make a statement. I hope that I shall be ready to make one before the House rises for the Summer Recess. The consultants' report is expected in the Department any day. I want to study it and then I hope that I shall be able to answer some of the hon. Gentleman's questions.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

I realise that my right hon. Friend has to make a rather difficult decision, but will he recognise that the machines made by NVT in any one of its three factories represent the last foothold of the British motor cycle industry in the market? Therefore, when he makes his decision, will he bear in mind that it is not only the three factories which he should consider but the whole future of the British motor cycle industry?

Mr. Varley

I agree that the future of the whole industry must be considered at some stage. I hope that my hon. Friend will await the statement which I shall make to the House. It is very much a question whether there are overseas markets for NVT motor cycles. I understand that there are large stocks of NVT motor cycles in the United States.

Mr. Biffen

Is the nationalisation of the three factories one of the options which the Minister is now considering? Will he indicate what he thinks would be the advantages of such action?

Mr. Varley

It is only one of the options. But I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the statement which I shall make.

Mr. Heseltine

Does the Secretary of State accept that the House finds it incomprehensible that he says that he is not able to make a statement now? His predecessor who is now Secretary of State for Energy studied this matter for 16 months. Despite all the advice which was given to him he proceeded with a certain course of action, the consequences of which will be the loss of jobs by people at Wolverhampton and at Small Heath and of the savings of people who invested in NVT. It is intolerable that the Government should now say that they have no policy and that they cannot answer questions when for 16 months they pursued a wholly disruptive course of action.

Mr. Varley

My predecessor told the House that the consultants would be asked to consider the future of the motor cycle industry in Britain. Their report will come to the Department in the next few days, when I shall consider it. That is what my right hon. Friend said. The lion. Gentleman should not give the House the impression that the troubles of the motor cycle industry started 18 months ago. As he knows, those troubles started way back during the period in office of the Conservative Government. Intervention was necessary at that time by the then Conservative Minister for Industrial Development, Mr. Christopher Cha taway.

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