HC Deb 03 August 1976 vol 916 cc1601-33

11.8 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Eric G. Varley)

I beg to move, That this House authorises the National Enterprise Board, on the direction of the Secretary of State, given under section 3 of the Industry Act 1975, to pay or undertake to pay by way of financial assistance under section 8 of the Industry Act 1972, as amended by section 22 of, and Part I of Schedule 4 to, the Industry Act 1975, in respect of a loan to British Leyland Limited or any of its subsidiaries sums not exceeding £30 million. In April last year my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) announced the Government's acceptance of the Ryder Report as a basis for future policy towards British Leyland. The report outlined a programme of action by which the Ryder team believed it was possible for British Leyland to be restored to viability and full international competitiveness.

There was a great deal to be done. The Ryder team found that there was a large backlog of investment, not only on the cars side of the business but equally in the more profitable truck and bus division. The team's conclusion was that the programme that was needed to put matters right would cost a great deal and would take seven years. The size of the decision facing the Government was recognised on all sides of the House. Although there were many who tried to suggest that there were cheaper solutions available to the Government, the Ryder team set its face against half measures which would repeat past mistakes. I remain convinced that that was right.

During the first year there have been important achievements. The reorganisation of British Leyland was effected quickly and smoothly. All the car operations have been brought together under a single management structure, with a large degree of autonomy for the car group as a whole. A new and much clearer responsibility has been given to Leyland International to exploit all profitable opportunities for sales overseas. The other groups also have been made more responsible for their own planning and for making profits.

It is difficult for those not closely concerned with the company to appreciate the magnitude or the significance of the reorganisation that has taken place. But the right organisation on a stable basis lays the foundation on which future achievements will rest.

Perhaps even more important than the reorganisation of management has been the successful introduction of a radical new structure for participation by the work force in the affairs of the company. A great amount of effort has gone into launching this great step forward. In fact, an unparalleled amount of effort has gone into the worker participation scheme.

I have had the opportunity during the past few weeks of speaking to senior representatives of the work force on the joint management councils of both Leyland Cars and Leyland Truck and Bus, and I have found and been most impressed by the enthusiasm of those who are participating in the scheme. They recognise as much as anyone the crucial importance to British Leyland's future of the work force and its attitudes, and they tell me that this is already widely recognised by the vast majority of those who now work in British Leyland.

But, of course, a great deal remains to be done by way of building upon the success so far in establishing and operating the new machinery. I am confident that there is a great deal of will on both sides in British Leyland to make sure that this work is carried through effectively.

The achievements of the first year have not been confined to laying the organisational foundations for the future. Much more has been done than that. But the market for cars—though not for trucks and buses—has expanded a good deal, and certainly more rapidly than some people expected last September.

Against that background, Leyland Cars has increased its rate of production by nearly one-third from October last year to May this year, and, associated with this, the National Enterprise Board has said that there has been a 24 per cent. increase in productivity as measured in terms of output per man. Impressive as these increases are, however, they have not been sufficient to enable British Leyland fully to catch up with demand in the domestic market. This is partly because British Leyland has refused to take the easy option of diverting export sales to the home market. It has stuck to the long-term view that export markets must maintain their priority if confidence is to be built up overseas and if the fairly ambitious targets for improved penetration in Western Europe are to be realised.

The unexpectedly rapid expansion of the market has been a factor in the continuing high level of imports and in Leyland Cars' poor market share performance during recent months. But the performance since April has been affected also by the unfortunate events of late March and early April, when several strikes occurred in toolroom areas, mainly over issues connected with wage differentials. Leyland cannot afford a repetition of disputes like these, and progress in industrial relations will continue to be crucial.

However, despite these troubles the NEB's summary report which I have made available to the House shows that there has been an improvement in the industrial disputes record at British Leyland over the year. The number of days lost has been reduced to around 60 per cent. of the previous year's figures.

These various improvements have also led to a big rise in exports—44 per cent. by value in the first half of 1976 and over 10 per cent. in unit terms—over the equivalent period last year. In the highly competitive American market, British Leyland has done especially well in increasing sales to the highest level since the corporation was formed.

Even against the background of the general increase in exports of the motor industry, British Leyland's performance has been outstanding. There have been some very important developments in the area of new models. I need not go over them in detail, because the details are familiar to the House. First, there is the new Princess. The TR7 sports car, which has been a great success in the United States of America, has now been introduced to the United Kingdom and Europe. There are the new Jaguar XJS and, most recently, the new Rover 3500. British Leyland believes that it has great export potential, particularly in Europe, and I am sure that this will prove to be the case.

Already, in the first half of this year, British Leyland has turned in a modest profit, compared with a substantial loss last year. As I said in the Written Answer I gave two weeks ago, I endorse the National Enterprise Board's conclusion that the performance so far this year justifies the injection of the first tranche of loan finance of £100 million as planned.

As the House knows, the NEB has also reviewed British Leyland's forward plans and has reported to me on them. It has not been possible to disclose very much of these plans. I know that in some respects the House still feels that perhaps we could have disclosed more. The hon. Members for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and Bridgwater (Mr. King) came to see me and asked for additional information. I have written to the hon. Member for Henley, and a copy of the letter has been made available in the Library. I think that we have gone a great way to satisfy the demands that have been made.

I know that the House will realise that it is not possible to disclose every piece of information that perhaps some hon. Members would require, because of commercial confidentiality. It would be entirely wrong if a largely State-owned enterprise were handicapped in relation to its competitors by being obliged to make public sensitive commercial information.

The broad direction of British Leyland's future plans—with their emphasis on rationalisation of products and facilities—has been made quite clear in the summary version of the NEB's report. The NEB, having examined these plans in some detail, has concluded that they are consistent with the Ryder strategy and provide the basis for the achievement of a sound and viable company. The NEB has also said that the financial forecast remains broadly the same as at the time of the Ryder Report, and—of particular concern to the House—the requirement from external sources remains unchanged.

The NEB has pointed out that substantial commitments will need to be undertaken as new projects are begun. Clearly it would make no sense at all to begin these projects unless the firm intention was there to see them through. Equally, however, both the Government and the NEB must be sure that, before the financial commitments inherent in major projects are accepted, there will be some kind of assurance that the productivity needed to make a success of the investment will be forthcoming.

The NEB has therefore agreed with British Leyland that major capital expenditure programmes should be submitted to the NEB, whose approval will be conditional upon the acceptance by representatives of the work force of the need for certain levels of productivity improvement to ensure that the investment is worth while. I attach great importance to this procedure. The House will recognise that its successful operation will place a heavy obligation on both sides involved in the participation system to ensure that it continues to work and develop constructively.

No one should underestimate the size of the task—I do not think anyone does—of improving productivity and working practices sufficiently to bring the United Kingdom car industry up to the level of some of its foreign counterparts with which it must compete both at home and abroad. It is essential that all those on whom a new project will depend can sit around a table in a collaborative and co-operative spirit to ensure that the necessary action is taken so that a new model programme can compete not only in terms of design and appeal but in terms of cost.

In carrying through the participation scheme to its logical conclusion, the proper involvement of the work force in the company's future planning is essential That, to a great extent is the key to the future success of the company.

As regards the terms of the loan, the period will be 20 years as envisaged in the Ryder Report. The interest rate will be commercial and, in accordance with the draft guidelines for the NEB, not less than that paid by commercial firms of the highest standing. There will be several drawings down from the total loan as it is advanced, and I cannot predict the precise rate that will apply at the time. I can say, however, that the formula being adopted would mean that if British Leyland were to draw down funds today the rate would be 15⅞ per cent. If National Loan Fund rates move upward or downward before the loan is drawn, the rate for British Leyland will move correspondingly.

We have charged the NEB with the task of making sure that the broad strategy is well considered and in line with the objectives of declared Government policy and with keeping a watch on the progress being made by the company and satisfying itself that the management is effective. Our concern is to work for the success of British Leyland so that in future years we can point to a powerful and fully competitive wholly British company making a vital contribution to our international trade and to the economy generally.

With those introductory remarks I ask the House to approve the proposed advance of £30 million under the Industry Act 1972.

11.23 p.m.

Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)

The issues that I want to raise are of general application although they have their foundation in the motion that the Secretary of State has moved.

When the Government first adopted the Ryder strategy and introduced in the House the various measures that were necessary to implement it, our principal concern was that in reality, although we were promised endless monitoring, full accountability and all the other words that are traditionally associated with Government intervention, when the initial decision was taken by the House any real accountability or monitoring would turn out to be a fiction and that whenever the Government came back for further funds we should be provided with wholly inadequate information too late and of such a superficial nature that no real judgment could be made. Those were the critical issues upon which we took our decision to oppose the precise form of the Government scheme as introduced.

There was no significant disagreement in the House that some form of rescue for British Leyland was necessary. All parties took the view that it was necessary to move in that direction, although there was considerable disagreement as to the form of the rescue that was necessary. The speech that I made in an early debate on the matter made it clear that Conservatives were interested in the precise form of the scheme. We wished to be sure that the purpose of the Government's intervention was to move towards a viable entity as rapidly as possible. That was the tenor of the speech I made at this Dispatch Box at the earliest possible moment when this matter was debated. I put that on record. Indeed, it is in the columns of Hansard for all to see.

My concern was that when the Government came along with their scheme it might represent the most expensive commitment on offer in any of the schemes and would involve a degree of public money out of accord with the realistic needs of the company in the circumstances. I was concerned lest public accountability would effectively be nonexistent.

When I read the summary of the National Enterprise Board report presented to the House by the Secretary of State for Industry, my worst fears were confirmed. That report, dated June 1976, does not begin to answer the legitimate requirements of this House if any form of monitoring or accountability is to take place. This is the only point I wish to make tonight. For all that the Secretary of State said, and for all the speeches that will be made in this debate, not one of us is in a position to make an informed judgment of whether British Leyland is making progress.

This is not an attack on British Leyland. I do not see the internal documents prepared by the NEB for the Department of Industry and I cannot know who bears the responsibility for this situation. However, I believe that to provide information as scant as that which was included in the summary of the NEB report must be unfair to the best interests of British Leyland.

Everybody accepts that British Leyland and its component parts is at the centre of the British manufacturing industry. That is not in dispute, and British Leyland is of real moment to the manufacturing capability of this country. Therefore, the need must be to provide the correct amount of information on which proper confidence can be based. My criticism is that this has not happened. The standards of accountability embodied in the report presented to Parliament would begin to satisfy the raising of funds in any circumstances other than those where the Government have been involved through intervention.

The people who gain by this process are not British Leyland, because one is dealing with conjecture and rumour, and industry does not gain because we can make no informed decisions. The people who gain are those who operate under a cloak of secrecy behind closed doors, without proper accountability.

We remember the conclusions of the all-party Select Committee investigation into Chrysler. The conclusions of hon. Members on both sides of the House who examined the Chrysler rescue was that decisions were ill-informed, taken at speed, and made in conditions where the right decisions were difficult to reach.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

What kind of information does the hon. Gentleman think that a Conservative Government would be likely to make available? Is there not a real issue on the question of commercial secrecy in relation to other manufacturers?

Mr. Heseltine

There is a very real issue of commercial secrecy, and I shall come shortly to my proposals as to how the House should deal with the issues that the hon. Gentleman raises. They are central not only to this issue because increasingly in the whole of the industrialised nationalised sector, and where there is State intervention in the private sector, we are facing these precise issues.

I do not wish to attribute any significant responsibility to the Secretary of State for Industry for this report, because the report he produced was typical of the sort of parliamentary accountability to which the House has become accustomed and which the House should never have been prepared to tolerate, if I may say so.

The fact that in case after case we have been prepared historically to accept information of as trivial a nature as this report is one of the reasons for the machine taking power away from the House. We have accepted a quality of information which is quite unacceptable in normal outside terms. Therefore, we have diminished our ability to influence events by having a proper discussion based on the real facts. It is true that the Secretary of State for Industry's summary of the National Enterprise Board's report is typical of the standard of information which the House has accepted from both Conservative and Labour Governments. This is not a party point.

As Opposition spokesman, I was faced with a decision as to what attitude I would take from the Front Bench. The normal response, from whichever party is in Opposition, is to come to the Dispatch Box and to pursue the more extreme rumours, the more extreme speculation, in order to cast the maximum doubt on the Government's policy. Hon. Members know what has gone on in the House from time immemorial, and incomparable damage has been done to the country's industry by this behaviour.

The question that confronted me was how I should deal with that situation. I decided, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), to go to the Secretary of State for Industry and put to him this precise dilemma. In the privacy of our conversation I listed to him the areas of doubt which I had about the summary of the National Enterprise Board's report. I followed that with a letter, which was made public, outlining some dozen particular areas where I thought that the information could have been adequately provided without in any sense affecting commercial confidentiality. In other words, I was dealing very largely with matters which were historical.

If I had not been involved, as many have been, with the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill last week and with public expenditure yesterday, I could have devoted two or three days to digging things out of the Library, finding clippings and putting the figures together into a proper report. That would have been an alternative before me.

But I put my questions to the Secretary of State for Industry in a letter which is nearly as long as the original summary which he published to Parliament, which he made available to me today and a copy of which is in the Library. He dealt in considerable detail with some of the points that I raised, and I thank him publicly for that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] The Secretary of State for Industry did not believe it was rubbish. The letter is in the Library, and there is no hint in the Secretary of States reply to me that the questions I was asking were a lot of rubbish. The whole tenor of the Secretary of State's reply is that he was trying to deal with legitimate points which I had tried to raise.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that much more information is published in the United States than in Britain, just as much more is published in Britain than in Europe. Would the hon. Gentleman say that he is prepared to have his question answered in respect of all companies manufacturing in or exporting to the United Kingdom?

Mr. Heseltine

I do not want to run away from the question, but I am dealing with areas where public accountability—because taxpayers' resources are deployed—is at stake. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about subsidies?"] If we are to talk about subsidies, there is a great deal of similarity between the argument I am advancing and the case that would apply there.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

Will my hon. Friend tell us whether the sort of information for which he is asking is the sort of information that any private sector company seeking to obtain finance from the Stock Exchange would be required to produce?

Mr. Heseltine

I am very sorry; I had not realised that that was the point. My hon. Friend has put the question in a different way, which has enabled me to understand it more clearly.

In raising funds there are tight rules, covering the widest historical detail, about the activities of a company which have to be followed before it can ask the public for funds. It is precisely that point that is at the back of my concern —that when this company and a whole range of other public sector companies ask for funds they do not have to comply with the standards that are mandatory in the private sector.

Mr. English

The hon. Member would not mind if this information were required of all companies manufacturing in or exporting to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Heseltine

I think that the hon. Gentleman and I are reaching agreement. I would like to see the standards that are applied to the private sector applied also to the public sector. That is the issue.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)

On the very point of the request for information, in the light of the hon. Member's concern, which seems rather meretricious, that there should be an end to the catalogue of charge and counter-charge and ill-informed debate, if he was concerned to have a well-informed debate why, in advance of receiving the replies from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, did he make the headline-seeking, ill-informed and misleading charges that he made in his speech?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Member is being less than fair to the point I am trying to make. I can explain exactly why I did what I did.

I went to see the Secretary of State for Industry and put to him the questions embodied in my letter. I then released a copy of my letter to the national Press, having explained to the Secretary of State that I intended to do that. It was the intention, when I saw the right hon. Gentleman, for his replies also to be released to the national Press late last week. I make no complaint that he was not able to release his replies then, because my questions were lengthy and he wanted to deal with them properly. But the reason for releasing my questions and —I hoped coincidentally—the Secretary of State's replies was precisely that I wanted my questions and his replies to be scrutinised in public by the informed, opinion-making Press of this country, so that there should be an informed debate in public in anticipation of this debate. [Interruption.] I have no doubt that the hon. Member will be able to make a speech in the debate. I am trying to explain exactly what I had in mind, because I believe that there is a fundamental issue at stake for the House of Commons, an issue that I am concerned to advance.

The Secretary of State, in reply to me, made a conscientious effort to deal in traditional terms with many of the points I had raised, but the fact is that he was not able—this is a source of sadness to me, not a source of recrimination—to provide in tabular form the statistical information and historically comparable information of the sort that any private sector company trying to raise funds would be compelled to provide. That is the sort of information that the House should insist on and has a right to obtain in circumstances of the sort that we are dealing with tonight.

I have to say that the National Enterprise Board's report, as published to this House—I do not know whether it is the fault of the board or of the Department of Industry—is a wholly inadequate document. It is a farce of public accountability, and it is this particular charge which should concern the House tonight. It is no basis upon which any hon. Member should make a genuine speech in deciding whether we should spend £30 million, £70 million, £100 million or whatever more it might be on British Leyland. There is no factual basis in the evidence put before the House which leads to the spending of one penny, and no company in the private sector would be able to get away with this. If such a company tried it, the first people to complain—legitimately and rightly—would be hon. Members below the Gangway.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked me what would I do about it. I intend to write to my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who is Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden), who is Chairman of the Committee on Public Expenditure, and draw their attention to the original letter which I wrote to the Secretary of State for Industry and to the reply which he has made available to me tonight.

I shall ask them to find a method of achieving two objectives. First, I shall ask them to find some kind of framework or to provide guidelines with which information should conform when the House is asked to approve public money for any industry, public or private. Secondly, I shall ask them to find a method by which that information is produced sufficiently in advance so that the House can have a meaningful dialogue.

Having said that, I am not in a position now to make a meaningful or objective survey of whether this money should be forthcoming for British Leyland. Et is now 11.45 p.m., and the vast body of hon. Members has gone home. We cannot object to this motion in practice because these funds are needed before the House reassembles after the recess. Therefore, there is no question of our voting against the motion tonight. Nevertheless, the House has not done its job.

Although no attempt will be made to oppose the motion, the Government should make every effort to see that the conditions of public accountability are of a different quality from those we have seen tonight.

11.43 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West)

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate tonight. I shall concentrate on the letter referred to by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). He tried to wriggle around the point in which I intervened in his speech. If he were genuine in his concern to avoid an unproductive and ill-informed debate, he would have asked his questions but before coming out with his statements and assertions, ill-informed, misleading and damaging as they were, he would have waited for the replies, some of which give lie to what he has said.

Who, with any experience at all of manufacturing industry, would put down a question in all seriousness, given a company as diverse and of the size and complexity of British Leyland, asking the Secretary of State why the target return of 19.6 per cent. in 1981–2 had become 19.1 per cent. in 1983? How fatuously irrelevant can one get by way of a question? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because there is no meaningful answer to that question, given the size and complexity of British Leyland's operations. If the hon. Member would care to meet me outside when I have more time, I shall give him an elementary lesson in accounting, both cost and financial. I do not have time to go into it now—

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Robinson

I shall not give way. I know that other hon. Members are as ignorant on this matter as the hon. Member for Henley.

But let us come to the more serious charge, not about the irrelevance of the hon. Members' questions but of his inaccuracy. Let us deal with his allegation that British Leyland was planning to double its output to 25,000 units a week by the end of the year. I invite him to say what was the basis for saying, at the time he said it, that British Leyland was planning to double its vehicle output by the end of the year. What was the basis of his deduction from that misleading statement that this amounted to a market penetration of 45 per cent?

Mr. Heseltine

I think I can explain that to the hon. Gentleman. If one takes 25,000 vehicles per week and multiplies that by 47 weeks, one arrives at a certain figure. If one deducts from that figure about 3,000 vehicles a week for export, over and above the present total, one is left with another figure. If that figure is related to the projected home market for 1977, which is 1.4 million vehicles, one arrives at a penetration of 45 per cent., assuming that all the cars are sold. That seemed excessive.

Mr. Robinson

I asked what was the basis for doubling the projection by the end of this year. The hon. Gentleman knows that at the time he made that statement British Leyland was already producing, and had been for the previous two months, 18,200 cars a week. A move from there to 25,000 is not a doubling of production.

Let us consider the hon. Gentleman's figures on exports. If one takes the trend of an increase of 10 to 11 per cent., downrated by a projection which I would put at 1,000 a week against the 25,000 production figure, that is a very good achievement, even at that rate. On that basis the hon. Gentleman will find a penetration of around 35 per cent. by the end of the year which I believe too be ambitious—probably too ambitious—but which is well worth British Leyland going for.

That was not the worst of the hon. Gentleman's speech. We saw the hon. Gentleman's pathological hunger for publicity, for the cheap headline, however damaging that may be to the British motor industry, in his handling of the strike figures. I shall not invite the hon. Gentleman on this occasion to explain why he put them on a different basis from the basis used by the Department of Employment Gazette, to which his comparison referred so misleadingly and inaccurately. We know that he wanted cheap publicity. We can forgive and forget his action on that score, but we cannot forgive or forget the damage he does to the British industry, posing as he does as one concerned about it, when he says that the figure represents 20 per cent. of all strikes in British industry. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that it does not. That sort of incompetence and his irresponsibility disqualify him from sitting on the Opposition Front Bench.

That is probably enough of the hon. Member for Henley. We need no help from him to know that we have severe problems. There are many disappointments in the performance of British Leyland. I think that these can be summed up under three headings. There are present in the Gallery certain senior representatives of British Leyland and Leyland Cars. I think that they share my concern on the three points I am about to make.

First, there has been a catastrophic drop from 32 per cent. to 27 per cent. of the home market share. The priority given to exports against the home market has been overdone. That home market share is of critical importance to the profitability and viability of Leyland Cars and it will be won back only at considerable cost and effort.

The second fairly major disappointment in the year to date—the figures I am using are a comparison of the year before the reorganisation following the Ryder Report with the year to June 1976—has been the fact that production has dropped from about 1 million cars to 700,000. The drop in home market penetration is a consequence of that fact. It is a disappointing and worrying failure on the part of British Leyland since reorganisation. The third matter for concern—though the element of shortfall is less—has been the drop in European penetration from 2.5 per cent. to 2.2 per cent. in the period to which I have referred.

These are all critical areas of relative failure on the part of British Leyland in the year to date since reorganisation. But let us be clear: a year is not a long time when dealing with a product which takes five years to develop before it can be put on the market and which incorporates the best part of 180,000 employees and controls the assets and complexity of operations of British Leyland.

There is a need for information which would be of use to hon. Members in debating these matters on the Floor of the House. It is rather different for hon. Members on Select Committees where much more is required. But I have no intention of bombarding my right hon. Friend with seven pages of requests for information for the purposes of debate on the Floor of the House. Most hon. Members must necessarily follow the performance of British Leyland in a summarised form, and certain information, provided quarterly on an ongoing basis, would show the trends of performance of Leyland Cars.

Could the Government give us the actual production in units, the average number of employees of Leyland Cars over the period in question, the market shares in the United Kingdom and Europe and of the share of imports in North America, and, lastly and most importantly, a statement of source and application of funds? For hon. Members who have any understanding of manufacturing industry—and many of my hon. Friends have—this information would give us all we need to know to see whether the trends within Leyland Cars are progressing in these critical areas.

If the trends are not improving, it is up to the NEB and the board of British Leyland to take the appropriate action, by management changes, to see that the ambitious targets set by the NEB and on which their reputations stand are met. That is accountability, an essential part within industry and between Parliament and industry. It is only in so far as the House is able to see the NEB exercising its responsibilities in that respect that we can have any effective say in the accountability of funds used for British Leyland.

I wish briefly to mention two other points. The first concerns cash flow. Many of us feel that the total of £2,800 million over the period stated is unlikely to be spent. The company simply does not have the technical, manufacturing and engineering resources to spend that money. From the NEB report it is clear that we still envisage the total commitment of £1,400 million of external funds. Does that mean that the £1,400 million from internally generated sources is not expected in its entirety to he generated?

The second point relates to the position of the Special Products Group. Not sufficient attention has been paid in the NEB report to the considerable progress that has been made by the Special Products Group. I am rather concerned at the thought that the internally generated cash of the Special Products Group is to be put into the other activities of British Leyland. I say that because the Special Products Group is in two very large and important growth areas in mechanical engineering. It is in construction equipment and fork-lift trucks. In both those areas it should be set the task by the NEB of becoming a major international force. To do that it will need not less of its own internally generated funds; it will need more. On that point, too, I should like a specific reply. Can we not build on the success here?

Lastly, I say one thing that I have said in the House and outside it on many occasions. The whole concept of tying the availability of finance to an improvement in industrial relations and an improvement in other aspects of manufacturing and sales performance at British Leyland is, in the way in which money is spent and committed, inherently unworkable. A one-sided minatory posture of that kind, whether to management or men—and it will be seen as such—will not work.

What the industry needs, apart from a period of well-deserved respite from the irresponsibility of Opposition parties, is leadership. It needs managerial competence and managerial integrity. That is what we should all be looking for in its future progress, which is vital to the progress of the economy over the next few years and with which the report deals.

11.58 p.m.

Mr. Hal Miller (Bromsgrove and Redditch)

I shall not attempt to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson), whose contribution will have disappointed the House when much might have been expected of his previous experience. The arrogance and lack of concern about accountability at the beginning of his remarks will have explained the difficulty that he had in controlling his budget at Jaguar Motors and may explain his leaving the company.

Mr. Robinson

It can be confirmed that the company with which I was concerned at British Leyland exceeded its budget. In that respect I plead guilty to some measure of lack of control.

Mr. Miller

I well understand the hon. Gentleman admitting that he exceeded his authority to spend money.

The House should be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) for the manner in which he posed the very real problems that we face in discussing the accountability of National Enterprise Board companies to the House and how we in this place should exercise our responsibility for controlling the public expenditure for which we have to raise the taxes.

I shall not go into the current position of the motor car industry in this country as time is now very short. However, I want to take up one or two necessary parts of the control that needs to be exercised on public expenditure in nationalised industries and NEB companies. I want first to refer to the need for some criteria of performance and the possibility of measuring performance against these criteria, on which decisions could then be taken to release further tranches of public money.

On 24th April 1975, the then Prime Minister informed the House that Leyland would be required to put forward annual business plans before further funds are provided covering improvement in industrial relations and producivity and putting forward precise investment and operating programmes for specific Government approval … The aim will be to satisfy the criteria for the provision of public funds on such a vast scale while at the same time allowing the company to operate on an effective commercial basis ".—[Official Report, 24th April, 1975; Vol. 890, c. 1746.] It is disturbing to read in the NEB's report on British Leyland to date that it is only now thinking of identifying the criteria which need to be met before further tranches of public money are made available.

We have the right to ask what has happened in the past 18 months or so to those criteria and what steps the Government have taken to assist in establishing what those criteria should be. In my correspondence with the Department of Employment, I have not been able to discover any initiative taken in that Department to that end.

The question of criteria also appears in the Secretary of State's Department's comments on the report of the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee, which says in its comments in the annexe to Cmnd. 6377: The Government fully accept the importance of having clear and consistent criteria … An early task of the National Enterprise Board will be to ensure that ways of measuring progress and identifying specific targets of achievement … are discussed between BL and the unions and agreed with the Government. These will subsequently provide the basis on which the Government will decide whether to release furher tranches of finance. I do not believe that those conditions have been met tonight.

The House has been placed in an impossible position, as the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee itself recognised would be the case when it doubted whether the benchmark condition can mean very much. It said that in its opinion the Government would have no control over productivity and efficiency and that the release of the first tranche would inevitably commit the further sums.

We therefore need an answer about whether these benchmarks and criteria have yet been established in a meaningful way and why further sums of money are likely to be called upon before the House has been satisfied. We shall not have an opportunity, apparently, of discussing this again until this time 12 months, although we are told in the NEB's report that up to another £400 million will be released before we have a chance to discuss it again—and even then perhaps in a form which will not afford the House an opportunity truly to discuss it. I should like an assurance that there will be a further opportunity to discuss these matters before those sums are released.

On the question of strategy and the guidelines to the company, in their own White Paper the Government talked about the need to seek an agreement on company plans for improving productivity, quality, continuity and efficiency. In their guidelines to the NEB they are on the same track when they talk about Government oversight being exercised as far as possible through long-term strategies. That is in the NEB guideline published in March 1976.

The Trade and Industry Sub-Committee pointed out that the House had never had any clear indication whether the Government fully accepted the strategy in the Ryder Report or whether there was any critical examination of that strategy. In particular, I wish to refer to the question of model policy and the possibility of replacing the Mini or the alternative of replacing the Marina and Triumph ranges. I realise that some of these matters are sensitive, but we have the right to know the answer to the questions about a new small car.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of recent discussion in the Economist and the Financial Times about the competition to be expected from the Ford Fiesta and about the huge volumes. that British Leyland's competitors can turn out in the small car range—up to 500,000 each by the four main competitors. It is unlikely that British Leyland will be producing a Mini replacement in that volume. Therefore, how is British Leyland to be competitive? Is it necessary for the company to cover the whole range of models, at any rate at this stage? We have had no clear indication of the strategy that should be followed and whether it has been subjected to critical examination by the Government. That is the second point on which we are owed an answer if we are to exercise any effective control over public expenditure.

The third point is the question of releasing money, in this tranche £100 million, when in the NEB's report it is admitted that several times that amount will have to be spent in the next 12 months, possibly without an opportunity to pass on it. What is that £100 million for? We have had no statement about whether it is to go into general revenue for general expenditure, whether it is to go to the Special Products Division, whether it is for capital investment in the new car, whether it is part of a programme to start it off, or what. We should have a clear statement of what that £100 million is to be used for and whether it is part of a larger sum for one specific purpose or for more than one purpose. I yesterday asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it formed Dart of a new model policy or was part of general expenditure. I also asked him to identify what the sum was for.

Fourthly, in all the speeches I have made on the subject I have spoken of the need for a commitment from the Government, management and men to the success of British Leyland. Tonight we need to examine the Government's commitment. We should take their own words from the recent tripartite declaration, which the Minister proudly announced to the House, that 10 steps have been agreed to achieve a substantial and internationally competitive motor industry, with a new approach requiring commitment by all parties, and that the Government should be more consistent than in the past in seeking to achieve stability in taxation, credit and other instruments.

How are we to square that with the Government's record on the proposals to tax company cars; with the report, which the right hon. Gentleman denied but which the Secretary of State for the Environment confirmed two days later, that the proposal to scrap the road fund licence and replace it by a tax on petrol was still under active consideration; and with the recent increase in national insurance contributions imposed by the Chancellor? What is the Government's commitment to a stable economic and fiscal environment for the motor industry?

We find ourselves in a new ball park in trying to have a serious discussion about the way in which accountability of great public companies financed by public money is to be exercised. We have not had sufficient information on which to form that judgment. Perhaps we need to devise new procedures to carry out our duty to our constituents satisfactorily. We must be satisfied that there are criteria. We need to be satisfied about the strategy being followed, about the destination and extent of the funds committed, and about the Government's commitment and determination to carry out their own policy.

12.10 a.m.

Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

There has been disappointment about the performance of British Leyland, not least among the work force. Among my constituents the greatest dis- appointment is that the management they are working for today is the same management as they were working for two years ago. At the end of the day, Lord Ryder will probably have to move in and do the job himself. Lord Ryder's reputation hangs on the success of British Leyland, and that would be a sure-fire way of getting action, because he would not want his reputation to be torn to shreds.

The workers want British Leyland to be a success and my hon. Friends want it to be a success, but there is every indication that Opposition Members do not want it to be a success. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] If it were not for my hon. Friends the British Leyland workers would not have jobs. The Opposition, including the Liberal Party, have consistently voted against any measures for assisting British Leyland.

Whatever aspirations we may have for British Leyland will fall to pieces because of the rigor mortis caused by the pay policy proposed by the Government and the TUC. There is every indication that last year's troubles in the company will be repeated this year. We cannot ignore them and expect them to go away. The Engineer pointed out in May that in 1974 the Government gave enormous wage increases to certain groups of workers—nurses and teachers, who we all agree are special cases—and what is needed is a reorganisation of payment schemes. British Leyland requires the restoration of bargaining with the unions.

The company claims that many other important reforms are needed which cannot be undertaken because of the pay policy. The Financial Times reported that Leyland was snookered by the new pay policy and that management, accompanied by Harry Urwin, the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, and a member of the NEB had been to see the Government to try to get some relaxation. I have repeatedly asked that companies controlled by the NEB should be given some dispensation in the national interest. Those companies are tightly defined.

The Government will have to move some way before the end of the year, otherwise, although British Leyland will make grandiose plans for the future the work force will see no changes and no action. In the end the company will blow up and we shall be debating in this place what went wrong. The Government have been repeatedly warned by shop stewards, workers, my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite that that is what will happen unless changes are made.

The workers at the Castle Bromwich factory—in which I worked many years ago—are frustrated because of the order placed in Japan for a set of tools to manufacture the new Rover for production in South Africa. The Japanese toolmakers cannot get the tools right for the roof panel of the car. They sent to the Castle Bromwich factory asking to see the test jigs because they could not get the roof panel right, but my constituents will not release those test jigs to Japan. They will have gone back to work yesterday, after the fortnight, and that will bottle up into a dispute which could have been avoided because the tools could have been manufactured in this country in the first place.

The last point that I wish to raise concerns the interchange of letters between the two Front Benches. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said go out and read them. I hope he will accept that some of us have already read them. I wish to refer to two aspects which have already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry. North-West (Mr. Robinson). but not in detail.

The hon. Member for Henley said that we need more information. Yet the Opposition parties are paid something like £250,000 out of public funds for research assistants which, I assume, goes to Conservative Central Office in the hon. Gentleman's case. While I agree that the information contained in the NEB summary is not good enough, nevertheless the research assistants could not make head or tail of that information. Any research assistant worth his salt will realise that the Department of Employment's strike figures do not apply to layoffs in other factories because of a shortage of parts related to a strike in factory A. The Department does not count that as part of the 2 million man-days lost between October last year and May this year, according to the national figures. The hon. Member for Henley quoted 400,000 man-days lost in British Leyland and said that that was 20 per cent. of the total figure. But the NEB figures refer not only to strikes but to those laid off as a result of a strike.

The Department of Employment does not use those statistics. The hon. Member for Henley said that the number of days lost in Leyland accounted for 20 per cent. of those lost to the economy as a whole, whereas they are just under 7 per cent. I accept that British Leyland does not employ 7 per cent. of the industrial workers in this country. While 7 per cent. is disgraceful and catastrophic for the company, it is considerably less than the 20 per cent. mentioned by the hon. Member for Henley.

The other point I wish to raise, because it is raised on page 8 of the Press release of the hon. Gentleman's letter from Conservative Central Office, relates to the employee participation system which the hon. Member for Henley says is not making much progress. I accept that, and so do my constituents. But the employee participation system at British Leyland is not intended to replace collective bargaining. That is the implication of the hon. Gentleman's letter, which was refuted in very polite language by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in a sentence on page 9 of his letter, when he said: The participation arrangements do not cover the collective bargaining matters you mention. On those two simple matters of the structure of the participation and the interpretation of the strike statistics, any research assistant could have worked those two things out. They were well known.

The hon. Member for Henley does not have to do his own researches. I suspect that he did not draft every sentence of his own letter. If he has to do his own researches, he ought not to have to do so because he is wasting public expenditure which is paid over to the Opposition parties.

Mr. Heseltine

Surely the essence of the point I would plead, and which I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept, is that the facts should be available independently through the monitoring process upon which Parliament can reach a judgment. It is not sufficient for hon. Members, even the Opposition Front Bench, to have to find the evidence from their own researches. The important thing is that every hon. Gentleman should have it because the monitoring procedure set up by the Government should ensure that they get it.

Mr. Rooker

One of my arguments against research assistants for hon. Members in this place is that it would make the idle more idle still. One only has to ask in the Library. All the information is collected by public servants. I do not want more public expenditure on more civil servants collecting the same statistics to provide for hon. Members opposite.

The fact is that the statistics are there. All the information has already been given by the NEB. It is the hon. Gentleman's interpretation that is wrong. As I have pointed out, any meagre research assistant in the central office would have known this. The Department of Employment does not publish its monthly statistics for nothing. There are hundreds of statistics and minutiae, and all of it is useful if one looks at it. If one does not look at it, one cannot make assumptions and expect to be proved correct on them. It is fatuous. Most of the hon. Gentleman's letter is shown to be false on the basis of his incorrect assertions and references to the NEB's report.

I appeal to my right hon. Friend not to start giving us more information of the kind for which the hon. Gentleman asks. What we need is more fresh information. We do not want the same information as is already available to hon. Members.

I shall take up no more time. My main point is on the pay policy. Things will go wrong and will blow up unless something is changed in that respect for British Leyland.

12.20 a.m.

Mr. Michael Grylls (Surrey North West)

In the few minutes left to us I shall not say much about the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), although I think that his point about pay differentials is closely relevant. There is a problem here, which he understands, and I believe that he has made an important observation.

I cannot be so generous to the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson). He is quite wrong to tell us that we ought not to question the rate of return on investment of British Leyland. That is what we are here for: it is our business to question it. The hon. Gentleman says that it was wrong to question the change in the percentage from 19.6 to 19.1. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation. All we are seeking to do, as my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said, is to exercise our right to ask questions and have answers.

Our main criticism, as my hon. Friend said, is that the information has not been sufficient for us in this debate. It is noteworthy that the Ryder Report ran to about 30,000 words, and the NEB summary report, which we are using for this debate, consists of only some 3,000 words. The reports which we are expected to use to make our judgments appear to grow shorter and shorter.

Why is this money being provided under the Industry Act instead of coming from the National Enterprise Board? The NEB seems to have plenty of money —£225 million in the current Estimates, and £50 million from last year. It has been buying up shares in various companies—Data Recording Instruments, Twinlock, the Anglo-Venezuelan Railway Corporation and so on—probably very good companies, and it does not appear to be short of money to spend or restricted as to where to spend it.

Why has the NEB not been directed to supply the money? In his answer to my hon. Friend's letter, the Secretary of State did not answer that. He was frank enough to agree that there was a point in saying that all the money could come from the NEB, but that is not good enough. In that case, why is it not coming from the NEB? If the Secretary of State's case is that the NEB is doing the monitoring, the NEB should use its own funds for the British Leyland operation. We need an answer on that.

What about the Secretary of State's consultation with the board of the NEB? Under Section 3(3) of the Industry Act, he must have consultation. What was the board's reaction? Did it firmly say that it would not provide more than £70 million and therefore he had to find £30 million under the Industry Act, or what was it? What was the view of the Industrial Development Advisory Board' Was it consulted? Did it think that the information given in the summary report was sufficient?

There is another matter which requires the attention of the House in the coming months when we consider the affairs of British Leyland. When will funds come from the private sector? I believe that Leyland itself, quite understandably and for genuine reasons, would wish as soon as possible to be able to go to the City, to the FFI and to the insurance companies and banks to raise some of its own money without going through the charade of having a debate such as this on inadequate information. In that way the company could prove itself, by being able to get money from the private sector instead of involuntary contributions from involuntary shareholders through the House of Commons.

I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State will tell us when he expects—and when he expects his reports from British Leyland and the NEB to tell him—that the Leyland company will be ready to go to the market. I appreciate that the company has had only a year so far, but I am sure the House would like to see that happen, because there is a shortage of public money for all the social needs which worry us. If this call on resources can be relieved and the money can come from the private sector, so much the better.

Finally, a number of assumptions which featured prominently in the Ryder Report are a measure of whether we should give the money. The first assumption was the inflation rate, but that is now out of line. The inflation rate in 1974–75 was 22½ per cent. In the last year it has gone to 26 per cent. The interest rate assumption in the Ryder Report was 12 per cent. The Secretary of State, in his letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Henley, said that it will now be 15⅞ per cent. Therefore, that assumption seems to have gone out of the window.

We have heard a lot of talk about British Leyland's share of the market. We all hope that the dip is temporary and that it will go up to 33 per cent.

There is little time before the debate has to finish. I hope that the Secretary of State can give us the information on which we can measure the performance of British Leyland. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reply to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley so that the House may have the proper information on which to make a judgment whether the money should be released.

12.27 a.m.

Mr. George Rodgers (Chorley)

I think that the debate is superimposed on the curious exchange of letters between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). I do not know whether the hon. Member for Henley was genuinely seeking information or was courting political publicity. I am convinced that the ink was hardly dry on the paper before the information was released to the Press.

There has been considerable comment about the fact that there is not sufficient accountability by British Leyland. But I am aware, as every hon. Member must be aware, that there is a greater degree of accountability within British Leyland now than there has been in the past. Had the company been exposed to investigation and accountability in the past, it would not have got into the situation that it did in recent years. If the private sector generally had been subjected to investigation and accountability, we should not have had some of the rather unsavoury exposures that we have had in recent weeks.

I am satisfied that my right hon. Friend has adequately answered all the points made in the letter to which I have referred. My few remarks tonight will be confined to the bus and truck section of BLMC, the headquarters of which is located in Leyland in my constituency and wherein a great number of my constituents are employed. There has been much comment about the extent of industrial disputes in the various documents that have been produced. When we recognise the complexities of the industry and its dependence upon outside suppliers, its record is remarkable.

When the voluntary restriction on the level of wages was introduced last year, it was recognised that there would be many cases of rough justice. In fact, as far as the bus and truck section was concerned, it was all rough and no justice. Agreements had been negotiated and made long before the cut-off date and commitments were taken on by the work force in advance of the agreed financial compensation, but the cut-off date prevented those agreements from being honoured.

I realise that my right hon. Friend has no direct responsibilities in this area, but I hope that, when the situation is unlocked and wages can again be negotiated freely, he will bear in mind that there are those in the Leyland organisation whose legitimate entitlements and expectations were frustrated. It has been my experience that the work force in that part of the country does not indulge in industrial disputes casually—

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it possible for the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Rodgers) to read with a little more verve?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

That is entirely a matter for the hon. Member.

Mr. Rodgers

I am prepared to read in rich and varied tones, but difficulties are presented when it is necessary to complete a speech in a shorter time than one anticipated.

The turn-about in the financial fortunes of British Leyland should be warmly welcomed. Surely only the most churlish of Members would decry the progress that has already been achieved. A short time ago the company was on the edge of the precipice and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people were at risk. A great deal has been accomplished since then. However, there must be constant vigilance by the NEB. We must be vigilant for the vigilantes. I support the motion.

12.31 a.m.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I am sorry to say that this debate has combined most of the worst features of the way in which Parliament attempts to scrutinise what is a massive commitment of public money. Apart from our totally inadequate procedure, it is interesting to note—indeed, one could not help but notice—that since the opening remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) the Minister of State, the Under-Secretary of State and the PPSs have been ignoring the speeches of my hon. Friends while they have been poring through Hansard to see whether they can trip up my hon. Friend by quot ing some of his remarks. That sort of behaviour reduces the whole thing to an utter farce. I know that we do not refer to strangers in the Gallery, but I hope that strangers were not too disappointed at the way in which Parliament scrutinises what is a vital investment procedure in a major British company.

It is interesting that criticisms have been made about the exchange of letters between my hon. Friend the Member for Henley and the Secretary of State. I add my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for the courteous way in which he received my hon. Friend and me in discussion and for the way in which he replied to the letters. A significant matter worthy of reflection is that Labour Members have dismissed the NEB's report and directed their attention and the discussion to the matters contained my hon. Friend's letters. We can at least claim that the letters have stimulated further discussion.

There cannot be any question—if I had been in doubt about the matter, the debate would have reinforced my original view —but that the one-and-a-half-hour procedure is inadequate. I know that the Secretary of State will point out that the money comes from the Industry Act 1972, but that Act was concerned with much smaller sums. I think that the largest was slightly over £5 million, whereas we are dealing with a £100 million investment with implicit commitments for about £400 million thereafter. It is laughable that such matters have to be debated within one and a half hours, and if they are debated at this hour of the night it is a farce.

The only way in which we can continue with the present arrangements is if a massive amount of pre-debate information is provided. If there is extremely full information and communication beforehand, there might be meaningful discussion. We cannot begin to do our duty to the taxpayer or the country by tackling these matters in the present manner. British Leyland is crucial to Britain's industrial performance, and to treat it in this way is disgraceful. Above all else, Parliament should deal with these matters thoroughly but with a sense of urgency. I think that the Secretary of State is concerned about this aspect, but we must ensure that it is tackled.

The implication of the right hon. Gentleman's letter was that there would be no debate on British Leyland money unless it came from the Industry Act. I do not know whether that is correct, and I may have misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman, but it seems to be his view that there is no reason to debate NEB money in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) pointed out that it looks as though another £400 million of public money will be involved through the NEB before the House debates this issue again. If that is right, hon. Members should know that by means of this abbreviated procedure we have dealt with £500 million and the strategy for British Leyland for the next 10 or 15 years. That seems to be a quite inadequate procedure.

I hope that the overriding issue of how we can adequately discuss these matters will not be overlooked. We did not begin to have adequate discussion tonight. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give us some reassurance.

12.34 a.m.

Mr. Varley

I have only four minutes in which to reply to some of the points that have been raised. I shall try to reply with verve.

I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was right when he said that there had been a bit of a turn-about by the Opposition. We could quote some of the speeches of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) that are reported in Hansard—a subject to which the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) has referred—but we know that this will be the first occasion when the Opposition do not vote against further money going to British Leyland. It seems that they are reformed characters. I could quote certain Opposition Members chapter and verse, but it would be rather embarrassing if I were to do so. What was said at that time was very powerful—[Interruption.] When muck is thrown at us, we are expected to stand here like statesmen and take it all. However, I do not want to be provoked.

I am genuinely concerned about Parliament being kept informed and having a genuine opportunity of debating these large sums of money on the best informa tion available. I do not concede that we have not provided the information. We have provided it in the summary of the NEB's report and in the 11-page letter I sent in response to representations.

The hon. Member for Henley said that he would write to his right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) about procedure. The hon. Gentleman might be interested to learn that over two months ago I invited the right hon. and hon. Members, as Chairmen of the Public Accounts and Expenditure Committees respectively, to take an interest in the NEB and its activities because of our concern about parliamentary scrutiny.

The hon. Member for Bromsgrove and Redditch (Mr. Miller) suggested that we should have given more information and thought that we should take even further opportunities to debate these matters as further money goes into British Leyland. But his hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, North-West (Mr. Grylls) takes another view. There is a report in The Times today of his letter to Lord Ryder asking why the money is not all coming from NEB funds. I think that there is a case for all the money being released to the NEB and for the board to pay it over on the basis of having been satisfied with the monitoring of British Leyland.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the Industrial Development Advisory Board had been consulted. The answer is in the affirmative. That body, which contains senior industrialists, has agreed the proposals we have adopted. Its members have received all the information that the Government have received on the basis of the Industry Act 1972.

Let us consider the progress made in the past year. Reorganisation of British Leyland has been carried through smoothly. British Leyland has a devoted and talented management team and its workers have done a great—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).

Question agreed to.

Resolved, That this House authorises the National Enterprise Board, on the direction of the Secretary of State, given under Section 3 of the Industry Act 1975, to pay or undertake to pay by way of financial assistance under section 8 of the Industry Act 1972, as amended by section 22 of, and Part I of Schedule 4 to, the Industry Act 1975, in respect of a loan to British Leyland Limited or any of its subsidiaries sums not exceeding £30 million.