HC Deb 13 November 1978 vol 958 cc22-4
17. Mr. Madel

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what information as to the investment intentions of Peugeot-Citreon in relation to the Chrysler commercial vehicle plants at Dunstable and Luton he has received in pursuance of the planning agreement;and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Alan Williams

Substantial investment is continuing at the commercial vehicle plants at Luton and Dunstable in accordance with the plans which were agreed between the Government and Chrysler UK. There has been no change in these plans on which our assistance is based. Peugeot-Citreon's declaration of intent contains clear assurances about the future use of all Chrysler UK facilities, including the commercial vehicle plants. I have arranged for copies of this and the heads of agreement to be placed in the Library.

Mr. Madel

May I ask whether, during the intensive discussions with Peugeot-Citroen over the last three months since the takeover was announced, the Government went to the trouble of pointing out that an element of modernisation was needed fairly quickly at the Dunstable and Luton plants? Did Peugeot-Citroen say that it would definitely meet that need for modernisation by providing an investment programme for those plants?

Mr. Williams

I assure the hon. Gentleman that that and all other aspects of the future of those plants were discussed. We were encouraged that Peugeot took the view that it was happy to be returning to the commercial vehicle sector which it left when it merged with Citroen. Peugeot-Citroen has given clear undertakings about the marketing of commercial vehicles, the sharing of investment plans and new product plans within the whole corporate structure.

Mr. Litterick

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the publicly appointed directors of Chrysler are excluded from all deliberations on the future plans of Chrysler-Peugeot-Citroen?

Mr. Williams

That is certainly not my understanding of the situation—

Mr. Litterick

Then how is it that they were left in the dark?

Mr. Williams

Ah! That is a different matter altogether. If my hon. Friend had asked a straight question, I should have known what it was he wanted answered. He has touched on an important factor here. What happened was that Chrysler deliberately kept its discussions at an international level and did not bring them to the national level. In that sense, it was less than straightforward with the British Government.

Mr. Hal Miller

Under the original agreement with Chrysler, a target was set for the use of British components. Can the Minister confirm that that target is reproduced in any agreement with Peugeot-Citroen?

Mr. Williams

During the Motor Show I went to the National Exhibition Centre and had a meeting with representatives of Peugeot-Citroen and the components industry to discuss this matter. All of us, including the industrialists present, were impressed with the attitude being taken by the Peugeot-Citroen representatives. They were eager that Chrysler UK should sustain its relationships with suppliers, and they were equally willing that British suppliers should have access to the whole Peugeot-Citroen-Chrysler network and range of models. It is up to us to ensure that our components meet requirements.

Mr. Buchan

I am pleased to hear that there have been some useful discussions. Is it not about time that we got some hard information about the company's intentions? Is my right hon. Friend aware that if we do not get information we get rumours? Is he further aware that the latest rumour is that the new Peugeot-Citroen car is to be called the "hatchback of Notre Dame"? Is it not time that we had information in respect of the supplying industry and the future model programme?

Mr. Williams

My hon. Friend will realise that the company, in its new role, has set up a series of task forces to look at all aspects and every range of the operations of the new company. They are due to make their reports towards the end of the year. It is understandable that they want time to assess all the opportunities and options available to them, and it would be premature to press for firmer commitments at this stage. I invite my hon. Friend to read the declaration of intent, a copy of which is in the Library. I think that he will find it encouraging.