HC Deb 14 March 1983 vol 39 cc8-9
11. Mr. John Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on his most recent discussions with the chairman of British Leyland on capital investment for new product development.

Mr. Norman Lamont

There have been a number of discussions with BL about its capital programmes. Details of these are commercially confidential.

Mr. Hunt

Can my hon. Friend confirm that British Leyland is now firmly on course to achieve profitability within the next year or two years?

Mr. Lamont

British Leyland, as it has revealed in the summary of its corporate plan placed before the House, is on target to break even before interest this year, and is on target to break even after interest next year. It has been immensely encouraging that the new models, the Maestro and the Metro, have been so well received. I am sure that the House would want to congratulate British Leyland on the success of the Metro, which in February was the best selling car with 10.3 per cent. of the market.

Mr. Stoddart

Will the Minister accept our congratulations—I have seen the Maestro being made—on the new product? Will he assure the House that British Leyland will continue to have the support of the Government in developing new models for the future? Will he also ensure that British taxpayers' money will not be used by British Leyland to buy gear boxes and other parts from foreign lands?

Mr. Lamont

The hon. Gentleman will know that the purchase of components is a matter for the commercial judgment of British Leyland, but over 90 per cent. of the content of the Maestro has been purchased in Britain. I know that British Leyland intends that the overwhelming majority of its purchases shall be in Britain.

The Government will assist BL, but in its corporate plan—this will be welcome news to my hon. Friends—BL has said that it does not intend to apply for more money beyond the £100 million that I announced to the House a short time ago.

Mr. Grylls

When does my hon. Friend expect to be able to allow private sector investment to go back into major parts of British Leyland?

Mr. Lamont

British Leyland, in its corporate plan, has said that it expects to introduce private capital into its mainstream activities within the next two years. We hope that that will pave the way for the eventual return of the business to the private sector.

Mr. Stan Thorne

Has the Minister discussed with the chairman of BL the use of flexible machine systems and, if so, will he be buying British?

Mr. Lamont

Yes, we have discussed that matter with British Leyland. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that at Longbridge and at Cowley there is a high degree of automation and that those factories are planning to introduce flexible manufacturing systems. The vast majority of British Leyland's purchases are made in Britain. Where they are not, it is because what is wanted cannot be obtained at the right price.

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