HC Deb 31 January 1977 vol 925 cc4-6
4. Mr. Rooker

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next plans to meet the leaders of the CBI.

6. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of Sate for Industry when he next proposes to hold talks with representatives of the Confederation of British Industry.

Mr. Varley

I shall meet CBI representatives at the next NEDC meeting on 2nd February.

Mr. Rooker

When my right hon. Friend next meets CBI leaders, will he tell them that it is their obsessive hatred of the concept of planning agreements that has led to the situation that British Leyland is now considering sending abroad the work of making tools for its body-building programme over the next four years?

Mr. Varley

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his ingenuity in squeezing a question on British Leyland into a Question on the CBI. I have said on many occasions that the Government are disappointed with the progress of planning agreements, and to some extent my hon. Friend is right. The CBI should have given the policy more backing, and it has over-reacted to the system. As to British Leyland, I have seen reports in the newspapers that my hon. Friend plans to submit evidence to the National Enterprise Board. That is the right approach.

Mr. Dykes

In view of the recommendation of the majority report of the Bullock Committee, and in view of the sharp but understandable reactions of the CBI, would it not be better if the Government did not publish the draft Bill during the current session and gave more time for discussion? Is not the draft fifth directive of the EEC on worker participation to be republished in March? Should not more time be given and the draft Bill published in the following Session?

Mr. Varley

Ministerial responsibility for the Bullock proposals rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. All that I wish to add is that the Government are committed to a radical extension of industrial democracy, and I have made plain on more than one occasion that we shall lay legislative proposals before the House in this Session.

Mr. Bryan Davies

When my right hon. Friend next meets the CBI, will he emphasise that the nation is scandalised by its reaction to the Bullock Report and that the nation regards the democratic participation of workers in the development of their firms and organisations as being just as right as the so-called share-holder democracy?

Mr. Varley

I agree with much of what my hon. Friend has said. We are committed to an extension of industrial democracy. Much of Britain's industrial problem arises from not getting enough out of our investment and our existing resources. Involving workers in decision-taking much more than in the past will help.

Mr. McCrindle

Will the right hon. Gentleman, together with the Secretary of State for Trade if necessary, meet the British Institute of Management and explain whether the hard-pressed managers in British industry can expect to gain if the majority report of the Bullock Committee is implemented?

Mr. Varley

Sir Derek Ezra is President of the British Institute of Management, and I know that he is committed to extending industrial democracy within the National Coal Board. I do not know whether his views are shared within the institute, but everything that I have said in relation to the CBI applies equally to the institute.

Mr. Biffen

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Department of Industry will have an important part to play in the debate arising out of the Bullock Report and that, if constructive consultations on employee participation are to proceed, they must be on the widest possible basis? Would he agree that they should not be restricted merely to the concept of trade union representation on a unitary board?

Mr. Varley

When my right hon. Friend made his statement last week, he said that consultations would take place immediately with all interested parties and that the majority report of the Committee would be the basis of the discussions. I do not think that I can add very much until those consultations have taken place.