HC Deb 25 February 1987 vol 111 cc257-8
6. Mrs. Clwyd

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what discussions he has had with the trade unions concerning the recently announced redundancies at Rover.

Mr. Channon

I met a delegation including trade union representatives from Leyland Trucks yesterday, led by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins).

Mrs. Clwyd

Does the Minister not realise that contrary to the announcement made three weeks ago by Mr. Graham Day and the Government that 1,265 staff jobs were to be lost through voluntary redundancy only 300 people have volunteered so far? Does he not realise the anxiety and distress that will be caused to families in Oxford and Birmingham if compulsory redundancies have to be forced through?

Mr. Chanon

Of course I understand that, and the hon. Lady is right to say that those are the facts. However, we are less than four weeks into the 90-day period allowed for responding and the company tells me that it will continue to work hard to achieve the total by voluntary means. I hope that that will be possible. The hon. Lady will be encouraged by the fact that the week before last 500 extra people were taken on at Cowley, so there is good news as well as bad.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am particularly grateful, as are the members of the delegation who came to see him yesterday, for the way in which he received them and heard their representations? Does he recognise that it is a continuing cry of many trade union leaders that the consultation they receive from the top of Leyland vehicles is perhaps not as good as it should be? Therefore, I am grateful to him, on their behalf as well as mine, for the fact that we have been able to arrange a meeting with Graham Day tomorrow, so that the trade unions may put their case to him. Which will be beneficial for future consultations on the future of the company.

Mr. Channon

Consultation is a matter for the company and the unions to resolve under the normal consultation procedures, but I am pleased that a delegation is to be received tomorrow and I am certain that that point will be debated.

Mr. Norris

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the evidence of 400 redundancies to be called for among white-collar workers at Cowley, followed by the announcement of 500 new production jobs there, is evidence of a company which is at last coming to terms with its management costs and production effectiveness? Does he agree that that is an encouraging sign for future prospects?

Mr. Channon

My hon. Friend has a point. It has been extremely encouraging to see since Christmas an important improvement in the Rover Group's market share. That is encouraging and bodes well for the future of the company.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

When the Secretary of State next meets the trade unions, will he reaffirm the Government's commitment to sustain the Rover Group as a volume producer on into the future? With that in mind, will he give a clear commitment to support the company's plans to introduce the AR6 Metro replacement, which will be a vital component in retaining the Rover Group as a volume producer?

Mr. Channon

I think that the hon. Gentleman was present last week when I announced the acceptance of the Rover Group's corporate plan in its totality, so I can assure him that I am backing that company. I also answered questions on that detailed point last week. We are doing exactly what the Rover company has asked us.

Mr. Roger King

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the delight and satisfaction of the trade unions within the west midlands area at his statement last week, which gives them the confidence on which to build a successful business in liaison with DAF trucks and as part of the Rover Group?

Mr. Channon

The Government have done everything in their power to help the Rover Group and now it is up to it to win its share in the market place. I see no reason why it should not do so.

Mr. Terry Davis

If the Government and Mr. Graham Day want to improve the quality of Austin Rover vehicles, does it make sense to sack engineering and technical staff?

Mr. Channon

That must be a matter for the company. It must decide on the best commercial prospects for it and the best way to realise them. The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to run the company; it is for the management to run it. If he has a detailed point that he wants to raise, perhaps he will be good enough to write to me.

Mr. John Mark Taylor

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would also be constructive and sympathetic to the original question to point out that in the midlands there are additionally in the private sector 700 jobs available at Jaguar, which is released from the Leyland Group?

Mr. Channon

That is a very good point. I notice that we do not hear so much about Jaguar from the Opposition Benches. I never quite understand why.