On 26 April 1977, the Ryder Report was submitted for the Government’s approval – in the document were detailed breakdowns of what funding British Leyland would need, both to survive in the short term, and then deliver in the more distant future.
There would be no pulling punches – a huge investment was going to be needed in the UK’s largest car manufacture and a lot of jobs were dependent on it. Here’s how Clifford Webb of The Times reported the story at the time.
Leyland chief’s ‘fighting’ talk as review document goes to NEB
Sir Richard Dobson, Chairman and Alex Park, Chief Executive of British Leyland yesterday personally delivered the Government-ordered review study of the state controlled motor group’s operations to Lord Ryder head of the National Enterprise Board.
The Ryder Report, which has taken just a month to complete, is understood to contain a unanimous recommendation from BL’s Board that the proposed £200m project to build a new Mini should be retained with minor cost saving modifications. It also sets out a number of choices ranging from a switch from the new Mini in favour of the proposed LC10 medium saloon, to the complete abandonment of the Mini project and the closure of assembly operations at Longbridge and Cowley.
Clearly recognising the explosive nature of this latter threat to 40,000 jobs, Alex Park was at pains to assure employees that the board would be fighting to retain as much of the existing set up as possible.
ADO88 to morph into the LC8 – Metro
In British Leyland Mirror, the group’s newspaper, he said: ‘The vital thing is to plead our case. It is one thing to write the report, but persuading people to accept our recommendations is another and we have a lot of persuading to do.’
He said that better production in the last few weeks since the disastrous toolmakers’ strike meant that Leyland had reached the first of three milestones set by the Government.
‘We have got back to work. We have brought production to the required level and now we must sustain production’ – Alex Park
‘We have got back to work. We have brought production to the required level (understood to be 20,000 cars a week) and now we must attain the second objective, that of sustaining production.
‘If we can do that it is going to have an enormous effect. If output is not sustained then we have a big battle on our hands.’
He warned employees that Leyland’s credibility was the main stumbling block. ‘We have to face the fact that our credibility is cracking at the seams. I appreciate the worry that so many employees have about the future but we must Improve our credibility and everyone must play their part.’
Ryder to maintain communication with Leyland
Lord Ryder and his team are expected to maintain daily contact with BL executives as they prepare their own recommendations for Eric Varley, Secretary of State for Industry. This stage is expected to last about a fortnight.
Mr Varley’s officials have been busy over the past month seeking the views and advice of motor industry executives outside Leyland. They include George Turnbull (below), the former Managing Director of BL, who has just returned from a three-year contract with the South Korean motor group, Hyundai.
Our Industrial Editor writes: ‘Creditors of British Leyland are to rank above the National Enterprise Board under the arrangements for supplying £100m of loan capital to the car group while the review of its future investment programme continues.’
£100m made available straight away
The NEB’s agreement with Leyland shows that the £100m is being made available under terms that provide for repayment installments between 1982 and 1997 at interest rates ranging between 14.4 per cent and 15.1 per cent.
However, the Board’s rights to the repayment of principal and interest are, ‘postponed to the rights of all other creditors of the company’.
Presumably that portion of the money being supplied under Government direction from Industry Act funds will follow the terms of the general NEB agreement.