HC Deb 09 March 1981 vol 1000 cc600-1
2. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the Government's policy towards those nationalised industries for which his Department is responsible.

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

My aim is to introduce competition where it is lacking, promote joint ventures, invite private sector capital participation wherever appropriate and restore loss-makers to enduring profitability as soon as practicable or reduce the scale of their losses so as to relieve the taxpayer.

Mr. Adley

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the reported discussions taking place between BL and Honda for some form of capital participation, which a Honda spokesman described as comprehensive capital participation in BL? Can my hon. Friend tell us whether that is true, and if so whether he would welcome it? If he has not done so, will he give every encouragement to that development, particularly in the light of the success of the British Aerospace venture, which has succeeded despite opposition from both the official Opposition and the unions?

Mr. Tebbit

Both I and my right hon. Friend have made it plain that we welcome participation in British Leyland by other companies and other investors, possibly from overseas. That remains our policy, and Sir Michael Edwardes and his board are working towards that end.

Dr. McDonald

Is it still the Government's policy to make State industries self-financing by 1982? If so, how much more will the public have to bear in terms of price increases to ensure that aim?

Mr. Tebbit

There is every reason to ensure that the public pay the price of a nationalised industry product at the time they buy it and not to ask other taxpayers to pay it for them.

Mr. Neubert

Approximately how much in total will support for the nationalised industries cost my hon. Friend's Department this year, and how does that compare with the known investment intentions of private industry?

Mr. Tebbit

That is an extremely wide question. I have the figures with me, but they have not been added up. Perhaps my hon. Friend will put down a separate question. It is a staggeringly large sum.

Mr. James Lamond

If that is the Government's policy towards the nationalised industries, is the Minister satisfied with the progress that has been made with that policy over the last two years?

Mr. Tebbit

One would always want progress to be more rapid. I remind the hon. Gentleman that over 50 per cent. of British Aerospace share capital has been sold. The prospects of British Leyland are improving rapidly, and other proposals for further privatisation are in the course of preparation.