HC Deb 01 August 1984 vol 65 cc331-2
9. Mr. Fallon

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he is satisfied with progress on the privatisation of nationalised companies under his control.

Mr. Tebbit

Yes, though I am constantly seeking to advance the programme.

Mr. Fallon

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the success of Weardale Steel, Tyne Ship Repair and Readheads Ship Repair shows the enormous scope in every public industry for giving workers a real stake in their future? Will he encourage his colleagues to transfer the Scottish and north-east pits to those who work in them?

Mr. Tebbit

That is an interesting proposition for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. Wherever possible, we seek to give workers a substantial interest in companies that are denationalised—notably, the National Freight Corporation and some of those that my hon. Friend has mentioned. I believe that that is a very good thing and we intend to do the same with British Telecom.

Mr. Crowther

Does the Secretary of State agree that as discussions about denationalisation of BSC special steels have been going on for more than four and a half years this long uncertainty has caused great damage in both the public and the private sectors of the industry? Will he now announce that he accepts the strongly held and expressed view of the Select Committee and drop the whole idea, especially in view of the conspicuous lack of success of the Phoenix 3 company, Sheffield Forgemasters?

Mr. Tebbit

No. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in the steel industry and wishes to remove uncertainty, I hope that he will get on to those who have been picketing the steelworks and trying to interfere with supplies of coal and ore so that that uncertainty can be removed very quickly.

Mr. Warren

In the progress towards the privatisation of British Shipbuilders, will my right hon. Friend consider the need to protect the company's assets in terms of the training that is now available to some 2,000 members of the company, but which BS proposes to close down during the summer recess?

Mr. Tebbit

I am sure that the management of British Shipbuilders will ensure that adequate training is available for the men whom the industry needs to employ.

Mr. Ashdown

What will be the loss to BL from the sale of Jaguar, first, in profit and cash flow, bearing in mind that £100 million has already been offset against originally agreed Government loan; secondly, in spin-off from research and engineering development; and, thirdly, in market and sales support, especially for Austin-Rover in Europe? What steps is he taking to assist the BL board to counteract those losses?

Mr. Tebbit

The BL board has made it plain that it sees the sale of Jaguar as being to the advantage of the company. I am sure that I should be wise to rely on the board's commercial judgment rather than on that of the hon. Gentleman.

Sir Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the denationalisation of Jaguar is widely welcomed in the west midlands and has engendered such confidence that the company is actually taking on more employees?

Mr. Tebbit

I realise that. but I believe that the main reason for the taking of more employees is the fact that Jaguar is once again producing motor cars that people really want to buy and are prepared to pay for.

Mr. Ewing

As the Secretary of State is in a generous mood, will he pay tribute to the Labour Government, who rescued Jaguar, and but for whom the company would not exist for the Government to sell? Is he aware—

Mr. Tebbit


Mr. Ewing

Is it not out of order, Mr. Speaker, for the Secretary of State to keep trying to rise while I am speaking?

Does the Secretary of State not realise that it is his responsibility to take care of the interests of all the British people during his stewardship of the industry of this country, and not just the few who feed the coffers of the Tory party?

Mr. Tebbitt

I am not prepared to take lectures about the national interest from the hon. Gentleman, who is notorious for supporting the most narrowly based, sectional, extreme Left-wing interests, notably those of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers. The only reason why a rescue was required for Jaguar and much of the rest of the British motor industry was the botched-up schemes to push together companies which had nothing in common. Those schemes were notoriously supported and pushed by previous Labour Governments.