HC Deb 09 February 1981 vol 998 cc583-4
2. Mr. Iain Mills

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the future of the motor manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

The future of the motor manufacturing industry depends upon its ability to offer competitive products to the satisfaction of the consumer. There are encouraging signs that progress is being made in this respect.

Mr. Mills

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that my constituents in the West Midlands, particularly those who work at Longbridge, are most satisfied with the Government's past and recently announced policy, which has allowed the development of the Metro car? Hon. Members on both sides of the House can hardly avoid recognising that it is a stunning success. Will my hon. Friend confirm that this is the way that British-built cars with British-built components can eat into the market share of imported foreign-built cars?

Mr. Tebbit

I agree that the success of the Metro—both in terms of market penetration and of the productivity of those employed at the plant—is most encouraging. I wish the company well. I hope that its next models will be as successful.

Mr. Park

Are the Government prepared to support the approaches that have been made by the car constructors' association in Europe to do something on an EEC basis against the penetration of Japanese products?

Mr. Tebbit

The most constructive thing that the British Government have done is to give a general welcome to Nissan so that it can build cars in Britain with British labour to the benefit of the British economy.

Mr. Stokes

Is my hon. Friend aware that we sympathise with him over the difficult decisions that he has to make about Government aid to the motor car industry? If we can afford to support British Leyland, can we afford to support Talbot as well, given that Peugeot has the main responsibility?

Mr. Tebbit

It is not a matter of supporting any of these companies other than in the respect that we are—I trust—seeing British Leyland through to a condition in which it can return to the private sector. The Talbot company is not in the British public sector and the two cases are different.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does not the Minister realise that the State has given massive financial aid to the car industry in England? In those circumstences, what steps will the Government take to retain motor car manufacturing at Linwood, given that thousands of jobs are at stake in Scotland, in an area of high unemployment?

Mr. Tebbit

On a previous occasion I said that companies are influenced as to where to invest in the United Kingdom not only by Government policies towards development grants and things of that nature, but by the past record of success, or otherwise, of investments in particular areas.