HC Deb 08 November 1976 vol 919 cc21-3
13. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will instruct the National Enterprise Board to reduce its support of the motor car industry in proportion to the strike record of whichever company is in receipt of subsidy.

Mr. Kaufman

The National Enterprise Board does not provide subsidies to any industry, nor does it have responsibility for the motor car industry as a whole.

Mr. Lewis

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, although it is true—and one must be thankful for it—that the strike record in the motor car industry has greatly improved, it does not help if loans are provided by the NEB which are open-ended, since what the industry needs is better delivery dates, better quality and a general effort on the part of everyone concerned to improve the export record? Thankfully, that is happening, and it is therefore desirable that the NEB should not act as a crutch.

Mr. Kaufman

I acknowledge the constructive tone of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. What we need within British Leyland and the other subsidiaries of the NEB is the kind of concerted effort that the hon. Gentleman rightly recommends. The NEB has strict rules about the terms on which it makes loans. The House debated the terms upon which the further tranche of finance was given to British Leyland last summer. There have been commitments by vote of the work force to the new Mini since then, and the hon. Gentleman is right in wishing to encourage British Leyland and the other subsidiaries of the NEB to move forward in this constructive fashion.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does not my hon. Friend agree that in the first nine months of this year Britain had the lowest number of industrial disputees for the past 23 years? Does he not further agree that the trade union movement has played a major part in bringing about this favourable development? Is it not now time for attention to be focused on the investment strikers who have failed Britain so badly?

Mr. Kaufman

This country owes an unparelleled debt to the trade union leaders for the voluntary restraint which they have provided and as a result of which we have managed to halve the inflation rate since the pay policy came about after the disastrous spiral upon which it was started by Lord Barber, who was also one of those chiefly responsible for urging the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) into the Conservative Government's disastrous confrontation with the trade union movement.

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