HC Deb 10 December 1979 vol 975 cc906-7
17. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has had a meeting with the board of Rolls-Royce Ltd. following his statement announcing the members of the National Enterprise Board.

Sir Keith Joseph

No, Sir.

Mr. Strang

Has not the Secretary of State's row with the National Enterprise Board distracted attention from the real financial problems facing Rolls-Royce? Will he give some kind of assurance that he will treat this major company in a high technology area with some sympathy and support and not with the ruthless abandon that seems to have been exhibited towards certain other major publicly owned companies?

Sir K. Joseph

I am sure that the present and future management of Rolls-Royce will make as great a success as can conceivably be made of the triumphant increase in orders that the management and work force have achieved.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does my right hon. Friend agree that orders alone are not enough, if they are not profitable? Will he assure the House that his Department's financial objectives for Rolls-Royce will be no less stringent than those of the NEB—namely, the achievement of at least a 10 per cent. return on assets by 1981?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Les Huckfield

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when Rolls-Royce was under the auspices of the NEB, as part of the NEB's guidelines, Rolls-Royce had a duty to promote industrial democracy—despite the political lock-out that it organised during the engineering industry dispute? Now that the right hon. Gentleman presumes to run, or to handle, Rolls-Royce directly from his Department, what kind of guidelines or advice on industrial relations will he give to the chairman of Rolls-Royce?

Sir K. Joseph

We have expressed our general desire that industrial relations shall be as good as possible. We do not think that edicts from the Government or fiats under the law will improve industrial relations. We note that the legal requirement on the NEB to impose industrial democracy was totally ineffective under the previous Labour Government.