HC Deb 08 March 1979 vol 963 cc1477-9
Q1. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Prime Minister when he plans next to meet the heads of nationalised industries.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I do not meet the heads of nationalised industries as a group, but I see them individually from time to time.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will my right hon. Friend make a special effort to meet the chairman of British Shipbuilders to discuss how efficiency in the shipbuilding industry can be rewarded, not just in terms of wages but in security of employment? Will my right hon. Friend arrange to have discussions with the chairman of British Shipbuiders and Government Departments to see that orders are brought forward early in order to provide jobs which would help companies such as the excellent one in my own constituency, Hall Russell?

The Prime Minister

I shall convey the views of my hon. Friend to the Secretary of State for Industry. He is considering the corporate plan put forward by British Shipbuilders. As regards security for the future, shipbuilding industries all over the world face redundancies because of the shortage of orders. We have attempted to safeguard the position of workers in British shipyards as far as possible through our intervention funds.

Mr. McCrindle

Could the Prime Minister persuade the chairman of British Rail that, before large sums of additional money are spent on projects such as the high-speed train, something should be done to restore to the hundreds and thousands of London commuters a modest standard of civilised comfort?

The Prime Minister

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. In trying to improve the conditions of commuters, which I hope is the constant preoccupation of those concerned, I hope that we shall not depart from recognising the great benefit that the high-speed trains provide. They are a good advertisement for British enterprise.

Mr. Lee

Will my right hon. Friend include among his visits to the nationalised industries a visit to the Governor of the Bank of England to discuss with him the unedifying aspects of the tap stocks and security lodgings on 22 February? Does my right hon. Friend agree that those matters were about as edifying as the Gadarene swine rushing to the Sea of Galilee?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is under a misapprehension. I am not proposing to visit the heads of nationalised industries. He has made that deduction, no doubt, in order to get in his supplementary question. As regards the conditions on the issue of the last tap stocks, many of us have felt for some time that there is a good case for reviewing the methods of funding the Government debt. The methods do not seem to be based on logic at present.

Mr. Farr

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the list of nationalised firms is over 14 ft long and consists of more than 1,000 firms? The sooner the list is abolished, the sooner the national economy will improve.

The Prime Minister

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have the list before me and I note that a great many of the major concerns are able, as a result of their surpluses, to finance their own capital investment, to the tune of more than £2 billion a year. It seems an odd day for the hon. Gentleman to talk of reducing the list. The Opposition spokesman on shipbuilding has just announced that one of the first actions of a Conservative Government would be to abandon their plans to denationalise shipbuilding.