HC Deb 17 May 1976 vol 911 cc935-9
5. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what salary is paid to the managing director of BLMC; and what expenses he is allowed.

Mr. Varley

The terms and conditions of employment of the Chief Executive of British Leyland Limited are a matter for the British Leyland Board.

Mr. Ridley

If the right hon. Gentleman will not answer the Question, may I tell him that the answer is £40,000 a year? While I welcome the Labour Party's conversion to paying high rates for a high responsibility job, how does he justify that to the chairmen of the nationalised industries who are on hardly half the gross pay of the Chief Executive of British Leyland?

Mr. Varley

I do not have to justify it, because it was not a salary decided by the Government. It is decided, as I say, by the board of British Leyland Ltd. That is the position.

Mrs. Wise

What is the Secretary of State's view of the sustained campaign of denigration in the Press of British Leyland workers? Is he aware that those workers are extremely anxious that British Leyland should be efficiently and effectively managed and that, for example, they should be able to fulfil rapidly orders for items like Land Rovers, which are still in very short supply?

Mr. Varley

My hon. Friend is right. There is a determination among those who work for British Leyland to make a success of that company. The bus and truck division of British Leyland, as my hon. Friend says, is profitable and expanding.

Mr. Tebbit

If the Secretary of State is not prepared to answer questions about the salary of the Chief Executive of BLMC, why did he accept this Question on the Order Paper? What is more, is it not true that, whatever the fiction, the fact is that the Secretary of State does fix this salary? It is made with his agreement and he is merely wriggling at the Dispatch Box yet again.

Mr. Varley

It is not for me to decide what Questions are accepted by the Table. The position is as I have stated. It is not for me to state the salaries of the executives of British Leyland. I hope that the House will agree that it would be very unwise for a Minister to do that.

6. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what further payments he intends to authorise in the NEB for British Leyland during the second half of 1976.

13. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement with regard to the level and frequency of further Government grants and other subventions to British Leyland, in the light of the recent strikes and restrictive practices in the industry which, according to the chairman, undermine its prospects of achieving viability.

21. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what will be the amount and timing of any furher tranches of public money made available to British Leyland; and whether he will make a statement.

23. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is satisfied with the progress at British Leyland to meeting the Government's objectives; and whether he will make a statement about further Government finance.

Mr. Varley

The amount and timing of any further sums of public money to be made available to British Leyland are yet to be decided. The Government will make their intentions known to the House following consideration of the NEB's report on its review of British Leyland's progress and future plans. The conditions which need to be fulfilled if further substantial sums of public money are to be provided to British Leyland are well known.

Mr. Dykes

Is the Secretary of State aware that that is a disappointing answer when the company's planners know approximately what they need, bearing in mind the interim statement published today concerning the arrival of the break-even stage, which means different things to different people? Is it not time that the Government came clean and gave more precise answers to the questions which are regularly asked about British Leyland, bearing in mind the Secretary of State's responsibility? Is the Secretary of State aware that Conservatives are increasingly coming to the view that the leadership in British Leyland is coming not from the Government, the Chief Executive or the board of management but from those workers who want to work on Saturdays and other occasions, even if they do not get paid, and who would prefer to see all shop stewards made redundant?

Mr. Varley

The hon. Gentleman should know—he probably does—that there is a great deal of co-operation among all levels of the work force in British Leyland. As I have told the House on previous occasions, in the first instance the monitoring of British Leyland's performance is for the National Enterprise Board. The NEB in turn will report to the Government and in due course I shall make known its views on such matters as are commercially proper to be made known to the House.

Mr. Rooker

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, if good use is to be made of the taxpayers' money which has already been put into British Leyland and which will be put into British Leyland, manpower agreements need to be more flexible so as to implement the recommendations of the Ryder Report? Will my right hon. Friend consider relaxation of the present pay policy and the proposed pay policy for companies which arc controlled by the NEB?

Mr. Varley

No, Sir. It is not for me, in answer to this question, to comment in detail on the pay policy. One of the conditions of the next phase of the pay policy, which I know my hon. Friend supports, will be to allow for more flexibility. Those negotiating on behalf of the Government and the TUC tried to have in mind a flexible arrangement within a tight structure. Although the policy probably does not go as far as my hon. Friend and some trade union leaders would like, it will, I believe, get wide acceptance throughout the country.

Mr. Heseltine

The Secretary of State refers to "well-known conditions", but no one knows the conditions upon which a new tranche of money might be given to British Leyland. No one knows how much it will be, or when it will be given. Will the Secretary of State respond to the demand on both sides of the House for the publication of guidelines so that we may all be part of the monitoring process which at the moment is being carried out by an agency of Government?

Mr. Varley

I have said in the House on many occasions that in the first instance the NEB will monitor the performance of British Leyland. I shall make available to the House as much information as is prudent within the commercial operations of British Leyland. The hon. Gentleman must get away from this constant carping at the activities of British Leyland and British Leyland workers. It all the votes cast by the Tory Opposition against Government proposals had been successful, British Leyland and the whole British motor car industry would be in a state of disintegration.

Mr. Alexander Fletcher

Will the Secretary of State tell us what incentive exists for managers and workers in viable companies in Britain to continue to work hard to make a success of their companies when they see so much money being given in Government subsidies to inefficient organisations such as British Leyland?

Mr. Varley

I suppose that the logic of that would be that the hon. Gentleman could contemplate the closing down of Britain's largest single exporter. That is really what he is suggesting when he makes criticisms of that kind. It is about time the hon. Gentleman and other Conservative Members put their hearts and minds to making sure that we have a profitable motor car industry with a good long-term future.