HL Deb 21 May 1984 vol 452 cc9-10

3.2 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 is the value of orders British Leyland has received to date for the new Austin Montego.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, £110 million worth of orders had been received by British Leyland from fleet buyers at the time the car was launched on 25th April. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that up to the end of April, 1,938 Montegos had been registered. I understand from Austin Rover that in the first 10 days of May, the car was the ninth best seller in the United Kingdom, taking over 3 per cent. of the market.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that very good piece of news. May I ask him whether or not this has come about because British Leyland has entirely re-formed itself in recent years and now has better designs, better productivity, massive investment, much better co-operation between the 80,000 people who now work there, and as a result there is a buoyant order book which is very good both for Britain and for British Leyland?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, the comments made by my noble friend are entirely accurate. The car has made a good start and this is a good augury for the future of British Leyland. It is also a matter of some encouragement that in the accounts for 1983, which have just been published, British Leyland showed a profit at the operating level of £4.1 million. This represents an achievement by everybody concerned—the workforce as well as the management.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that this excellent performance is in sharp contrast to the four years' performance immediately before the company had to be brought into national ownership? Is the noble Lord aware that in 1971 the shares of the company under private enterprise were quoted at 46.5p and that in 1974, immediately prior to nationalisation, they were quoted at 8.5p?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, the noble Lord's historical researches are no doubt of considerable interest to himself, if to nobody else. The important point is that after a period of great difficulty this very important company is now showing significant progress. We must all wish this progress to continue.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether the figures he has just given, which the whole House welcomes, include export orders?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I cannot give a specific figure, but last year the Austin Rover group exported 20 per cent. of its total output.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, in the light of the very fulsome and well justified praise that the noble Lord the Minister has just extended to British Leyland, can he give the House an assurance that this successfully publicly-owned company will not now be privatised, either wholly or piecemeal?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I am clearly not prepared to give any such assurance to the noble Lord. In any event, his question goes wide of the Question on the Order Paper.