HC Deb 16 February 1993 vol 219 cc121-2
7. Mr. Hoyle

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what was the number of people employed in the commercial vehicle industry at the end of 1992.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

There are no separate estimates for the commercial vehicle industry.

Mr. Hoyle

Is the Secretary of State aware that the numbers in the industry will be diminished if the Government do not assist Leyland DAF? Will she ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to get off his backside, stop his inactivity and begin to intervene on behalf of the leading truck maker, as the Belgian and Dutch Governments are doing?

Mrs. Shephard

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade made it clear in the House that the receivers believe that at least part of the United Kingdom operations can be saved as a commercially viable business without state handouts. He also made it clear that we cannot repeat the open-ended taxpayers' commitments of the British Leyland years. He also said that if proposals are made to the Government for help with specific projects, we are prepared to consider them on their own merits, provided, of course, that they are within EC rules and the usual criteria under the industrial development legislation.

Mr. Dover

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is her Department, through the redundancy fund, which has paid the money to the ex-workers of Leyland DAF? Therefore, have not the Government already helped the commercial vehicle workers?

Mrs. Shephard

We made rapid arrangements to pay statutory redundancy payments. It is also true that Employment Service and training and enterprise council staff are ready to go to plants deal with claims and offer advice.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth

Does the Secretary of State agree that redundancy payments from her Department are the last kind of assistance that British workers want from the Government? Does she realise that three and a half jobs for every direct job are at risk as a result of the Leyland DAF crisis? Does she accept that there is a serious discrepancy between what the President of the Board of Trade said about approaches that have been made and what is being said by representatives of the company? Will she make representations for more active involvement by the DTI to save the jobs involved?

Mrs. Shephard

I made clear my Department's intention to give every possible assistance to workers affected in that way, and I repeat that the receivers believe that at least part of the United Kingdom operations can be saved. Staff and Ministers of the Department of Trade and Industry have stood ready to give help if required and I can do no more than repeat what I just said to the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth).

Mr. Madel

Does my right hon. Friend agree that European Governments should redouble their efforts to deal with the problem of over-capacity in the commercial vehicle industry in Europe? To that end, should not particular help be given to long-serving truck workers who lost their jobs in 1992?

Mrs. Shephard

I know that my hon. Friend has a constituency interest in the matter. He is right to pinpoint as the problem the over-capacity of truck production. Nevertheless, the Government hope that some help can be given and that something can be salvaged from the current problems of Leyland DAF?