HC Deb 05 November 1986 vol 103 cc950-1
11. Mr. Nellist

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what arrangements his Department makes for the monitoring of progress of companies privatised from British Leyland where that company retains an interest.

Mr. Giles Shaw

There are no special arrangements beyond the normal role of the Department in its sponsorship of private sector companies.

Mr. Nellist

I am tempted to ask why not. Coventry Climax was privatised from British Leyland in 1981 and it has lost 80 per cent. of the original 3,000 jobs, with not a penny being paid to British Leyland by the consortium that took it over. Do the Government not feel any responsibility for such a conspicuous failure of privatisation? When the Government promise a secure future for workers, should they not monitor before failure occurs? Why was such monitoring not exercised by the Government?

Mr. Shaw

The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that the British Leyland position in regard to the problem is fully protected. Coventry Climax has been through a difficult time in the sale and marketing of its products and it is currently in the hands of the receiver. It would, therefore, be wrong for me to make any further observation about the existing company.

In relation to privatisation and jobs, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that 1,500 more jobs at Jaguar have been created since privatisation. Its profit record is now £121 million on the 1985 returns, as opposed to a loss of £32 million in 1981.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that companies privatised with British Leyland, as well as those that are still within the group—for example Leyland Trucks—have done everything asked of them by the Government in terms of quality and marketing support, but that, none the less, the market is too small to take the number of products produced? Will my hon. Friend confirm the importance of giving Government support for export sales through loans, credit arrangements and in leading an attack into the market that is so important for companies such as Leyland Trucks?

Mr. Shaw

I accept my hon. Friend's point in relation to Leyland Trucks. He will be aware that there is substantial over-capacity in the trucks business in Britain and probably worldwide. That is why he will, no doubt, welcome, as I did, the arrangements announced by Mr. Day in Paris vis-a-vis the Daf company. In relation to overseas exports, the Export Credits Guarantee Department stands behind many British companies in their fight to obtain a fair share of overseas markets.

Mr. John Smith

As Coventry Climax is now in receivership, and as, at the time it was sold off from British Leyland a bright future was promised to the work force, should not someone who initiated that privatisation give an apology to them for what has happened? In so far as it is now the receiver's proposal to sell off the business, perhaps in parts, is it the Government's intention to permit the receiver to sell to the highest bidder irrespective of the consequences for the west midlands economy of the loss of substantial engineering industries?

Mr. Shaw

I understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman's natural anger at the fact that the privatisation of the company has not proved successful, but I must confess that it surely is right to see that a company can market its goods and services without subvention from the taxpayer. In the case of Coventry Climax, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman well knows, there have been difficulties for it in achieving its sales performance. That could happen to any company, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows full well what the consequences of that would be. The receiver's task is to seek to dispose of assets and to obtain a realistic return for the creditors of the company, and that is in his and the creditors' best interests.

Forward to