HC Deb 25 January 1982 vol 16 cc602-3
9. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will place a version of the approved corporate plan of BL in the Library; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

As BL's corporate plan contains commercially confidential information, it is not publicly available. Copies of BL's report on the corporate plan are available in the Vote Office and in the Library.

Mr. Miller

I invite my right hon. Friend to congratulate the men and management on their efforts and achievement in introducing new models and modernising production facilities while remaining within their cash flow targets despite recession and rising prices. Will he ensure that Government action does not result in higher prices for raw materials, especially steel, and prejudice the outcome of the corporate plan?

Mr. Jenkin

My hon. Friend will know, because he follows such matters closely, that after several years of major loss making by almost all European steel producers, last year the Community embarked upon a plan to restore viability to Europe's steel industry. That plan must inevitably involve an increase in prices. It is fair to say that there can be no future for British steel-using industries if they rely solely upon subsidised steel, as was the position until quite recently.

Mr. Orme

Is the Secretary of State aware of the serious situation that has developed in the bus and truck devision at Bathgate and at Leyland in Lancashire, which could place that division in jeopardy? Will he intervene and take some action to find out the basis of the problem? Immediate steps should be taken, because thousands of workers are involved. Those of us who have tried to discuss the matter, with both management and workers, feel that some direct action should be taken by the Government.

Mr. Jenkin

I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. This is an unofficial strike by people protesting against the rationalisation of production in the Leyland group. The strike started at Leyland and has now spread to Bathgate. I agree that unless good sense returns quickly, question marks will again hang over that part of British Leyland. The great majority of the workers at the two plants are well aware of that fact.

Mr. Stokes

I welcome the progress that British Leyland has already made, but does not the company have a great responsibility to all British taxpayers in view of the Government's largesse towards it? Is not the best contribution that British Leyland can make to improve its efficiency to the same extent as the private sector?

Mr. Jenkin

Yes, and the great majority of British Leyland workers are well aware of that. For example, the cars division, which is connected to a large extent with my hon. Friend's constituency, improved productivity, expressed in vehicles per man year, by no less than 33 per cent. last year. That is a most notable and welcome achievement. Improvement in the productivity and general performance of the company, which is the only way to satisfy customers, will ensure long-term jobs for those who remain with the company.

Mr. Orme

I must press the Secretary of State on the position at Bathgate and at Chorley in Lancashire. The workers involved are highly responsible and they have co-operated in recent years in improving productivity and output. In the interests of the industry, will the Secretary of State intervene?

Mr. Jenkin

The day-to-day conduct of industrial relations must be a matter for the management of British Leyland. That was made abundantly clear by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) when Sir Michael Edwardes was first appointed and it has been made clear since then by every Minister who has had responsibility. Nothing would be more damaging to the authority of the British Leyland management than for me to try to take matters out of its hands.

Information that has reached me suggests that many of the workers at both Bathgate and Leyland are fully aware of the reality of their position. They have been inundating—that was the word that was used to me—the offices of the company with requests for voluntary redundancy terms. They know that rationalisation is going ahead.