HL Deb 08 November 1983 vol 444 cc689-91

2.43 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the comparative figures for the sales of Jaguar cars in 1981, 1982 and the first two quarters of 1983.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Cockfield)

My Lords, 15,640 in 1981, 21,632 in 1982 and 14,545 in the first six months of 1983.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, do not these admirable results indicate that Jaguar is a part of the British Leyland empire which, with its very high quality and fine results, would be suitable for early privatisation? Can my noble friend say when this is likely to come about; and, when it does come about, will he make sure that those who work for Jaguar, as well as those who wish to take shares in future of Jaguar, have a fair opportunity to do so?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I agree with the tribute that my noble friend pays to Jaguar. This is a remarkable success story, which reflects great credit on both the management and the workforce. So far as privatisation is concerned, both the board of BL and the Government are committed to privatisation of BL. The precise form and timing of that privatisation is under study and an announcement will be made at the appropriate time.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, would the Minister not agree that that is an absolutely appalling statement to read, that this endeavour has been the endeavour of British people over the years in developing this wonderful motor car with its high success, and that the ordinary folk of this country are proud of it because they associate themselves just as much with British Leyland as they do with the Royal Navy, the Army and the Air Force, which are all, quite properly, under public control?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I share the noble Lord's admiration for the Jaguar motor car and the success which has been achieved. What it demonstrates is that the combination of first-class management, a good co-operative workforce and the determination to privatise at the earliest possible date are a recipe for complete success.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend how many of these cars, either as a percentage or in numbers, have been exported?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, a very high proportion have been exported. Last year, for example, out of a total output of some 21,000, no less than 10,300 went to the United States alone.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, can the noble Lord the Minister confirm to the House, so that the House appreciates it and so does the nation, that the recipe of the Govenment is this that, when you have superb management and co-operation and loyalty from the workforce, the thing you do is to hand it over to private management, which may be very inferior to the present management, and you hand over the workforce to private enterprise instead of keeping it where it is?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, the crucial point that the noble Lord overlooks is that these outstanding management teams come from the private sector and, this being so, the return of these industries to the private sector in due course will provide them with a much better and greater opportunity in the future than they would have if they remained within the public sector.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell the House for how many years before it was nationalised was the Jaguar motor an outstanding sales success?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl has more detailed information on that point than I have. The original Jaguar motor car—and Jaguar was only the model name the noble Earl will remember that it originally went under a different name altogether; it was originally called the Swallow Standard, in fact—was an outstanding motor car in the 1950s and the 1960s. It fell upon lean times, from which it has now recovered in a quite outstanding fashion.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, will my noble friend make it clear that there is no question of handing over Jaguar to people? I asked in my first supplementary question whether the employees and all who work for Jaguar would be given an opportunity of buying—not receiving free—shares in the future of this great enterprise?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, that is one of the points which will obvioulsy be taken into account when the final details of the privatisation are settled. As a matter of principle, I do not rise to every provocative statement made by the Opposition.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, can the noble Lord say how many loss-making public industries the Government are proposing to privatise?

Lord Cockfield

Not without notice, my Lords, but the objective of the Government is to bring industries in the public sector into profit as soon as possible, and a considerable degree of progress has been made in that field. The noble Lord will no doubt call to mind a number quite apart from Jaguar. Of course, we have the turn-round in British Airways, from which I hope the noble Lord will take great satisfaction, as indeed, I think, will everyone in the House.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, will the noble Lord stop using the disgusting word "privatisation" and call it by its correct name of asset-stripping?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, so far as the noble first part of the Lord's supplementary question is concerned, I think we would all like to find a better term than "privatisation". I sometimes refer to it as liberation. So far as the second part of his supplementary question is concerned, I think it shows a grievous lack of understanding of the position.