HC Deb 16 July 1986 vol 101 cc985-6
3. Mr. John Mark Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment he has made of the implications for the possibility of securing the early privatisation of Land Rover of its recent achievement of a £50 million contract to supply the Australian Army with military vehicles.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Morrison)

We are delighted that Land Rover has won this contract. Plans for the company's future remain as outlined in my right hon. Friend's statement of 24 April.

Mr. Taylor

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he be so kind as to take this opportunity to congratulate Land Rover on the excellent order that it has secured? Does my hon. Friend agree that, under the excellent chairmanship of Mr. Graham Day, and after a period of consolidation—which might take a little time—there are prospects for privatisation by offer to British shareholders?

Mr. Morrison

I shall certainly pass on my hon. Friend's message of congratulation to Land Rover and also convey to Mr. Graham Day my hon. Friend's feelings about the future of the Rover group under his leadership. I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said about future prospects. The present position remains as stated by my right hon. Friend earlier this year.

Mr. Stan Thorne

Will the Minister tell us the present position on Leyland Bus?

Mr. Morrison

The straight answer to that is no, I cannot. The matter is being considered by the Rover group and we have yet to receive a recommendation.

Mr. Greenway

If my hon. Friend wishes to look for success in private industry and the value that that could have for BL, he has only to look at the rowing boats on the Thames taking part in the parliamentary regatta today. Is he aware that although the ITN boat crashed hard into a bridge, it did not split and there was no damage to boat or occupants? The Knights of the Shires boat almost—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is very ingenious, but the question relates to British Leyland.

Mr. Greenway

On the principle of privatization—

Mr. Speaker

No. I think that the hon. Gentleman has had a good try.

Mr. John Evans

Would it not be more intelligent to allow BL to get on with its work, to stop all this talk about privatisation and to allow the company to concentrate on being a very good British company doing wonders for the British work force and for British industry?

Mr. Morrison

Of course, the hon. Gentleman would take that point of view. He is aware that since Jaguar returned to the private sector it has done outstandingly well.

Mr. Marlow

While considering how best to secure investment in the British motor car industry, will my hon. Friend tell the House how convinced he is that General Motors will seek to invest money in the United Kingdom rather than in the rest of Europe?

Mr. Morrison

As my hon. Friend will appreciate, General Motors has a long history, going back 50 years, of significant investment in this country, and we are very grateful for that. I hope that it will continue to make its European investment based in the United Kingdom.

Mr. John Smith

Following the Minister's response to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Thorne), will he say when a decision will be made about the future of Leyland Bus? If on an evaluation of the bids it is clear that it is in the public interest that Leyland Bus stays in the public sector, will the Minister confirm that the Government will keep that option open as they did in the case of Land Rover?

Mr. Morrison

I regret that I am unable to say precisely when the decisions will be taken. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will understand that there are complicated matters to be considered, and they should be considered properly. The form is that the board of the Rover group makes a recommendation to the Department and the Department considers the recommendation. I hope that the delay will he put to an end as soon as possible. I appreciate that that delay has had a debilitating effect on all those involved. The straightforward answer to the second point is yes. We shall look at the question in the context in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman put it.