HC Deb 17 May 1976 vol 911 cc943-5
11. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on Government policy towards the motor industry.

Mr. Alan Williams

The policy of the Government towards the motor industry remains as outlined in the White Paper on the industry published in January.

Mr. Grylls

Will the Minister confirm the view he held at the time of the Chrysler rescue operation that it would be better if the rest of the motor manufacturers remained under multinational companies? If that is still his view, will he resist the pleas of the Labour Party for the Government to nationalise Ford, Vauxhall and Chrysler as well—in other words, will he stick to his original statement?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that at that time I was not in my present Department. But I agree completely with the policy pursued by my Labour colleagues. I am aware of no proposals at Government level of the kind he suggests and I have nothing more to add.

Mr. Michael Marshall

What is the Minister doing to obtain variations in the Price Code to assist not only the motor industry but industry in general to obtain a better level of profit and investment and to provide more job opportunity?

Mr. Williams

Discussions are now taking place, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection and Paymaster-General has been negotiating with industry and discussing the possibilities of changes in the code. But the overwhelming benefit to industry will come from defeating inflation, which must be the main priority. I remind the House that it was a Labour Government who introduced the allowance for investment under the Price Code.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my hon. Friend take a quiet look at the Finance Bill provisions on this matter, which seem to contain certain difficulties for motor car firms such as Rolls-Royce? Although we wholly accept and strongly support any suggestion against unfair "perks", we believe that it would be unfortunate if this foremost export company, 60 per cent. of whose products go overseas, were unwittingly damaged in this way.

Mr. Williams

My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Industry and the Chancellor of the Exchequer accept that there must be no unnecessary damage to the industry. For that reason my right hon. Friend and the Department are having discussions with the industry about the implications of the proposals. Equally, we must be sure that the taxation system is fair.

Mr. Hal Miller

Will the Minister say what is the Government's policy towards the serious over-capacity in the motor industry, a topic to which reference has been made in evidence to a Select Committee by the Chief Executive of British Leyland and by Ford representatives?

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman is correct. There is over-capacity, as has been indicated in the White Paper. What is now happening, again indicated in the White Paper, is that the Government have asked all companies to undertake a plant —by—plant study in consultation with their work force and to recommend to the Government company—by—company steps which may assist the future of the industry.

Mr. Rooker

If the effect of the Finance Bill is that more Rolls-Royces are exported, what is wrong with that?

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend is correct to say that we want growth through an export-led boom. We do not want to damage the domestic market for cars, but we have to be fair in our taxation system.