Archive : Fury over BL’s sell off talks with US car men

But Channon insists It’s good for jobs
By Alan Cochrane
Political Editor

Talks about the American take-over of a large chunk of what remains of the British owned vehicle industry are at “an advanced stage”, the Government admitted last night. United States car giants General Motors and Ford are both bidding for sections of British Leyland.

General Motors is interested in aquiring the loss-making Leyland Vehicles division.  Ford wants to buy Austin Rover, Britain’s last home-owned volume car manufacturer.  And the Brltish owned Laird Group is bidding for BL’s bus Interests.

News of the impending takeovers Infuriated union leaders and Labour MPs. And some Tory MPs have tabled a motion deploring the ” inevitable ” job losses and the further erosion of our industrial base.” But new Trade and Industry Secretary Paul Channon insisted in the Commons last night that he would be seeking assurances from the Americans about the future of the BL companies and the jobs of workers in them.

Labour Front Bench spokesman John Smith asked : ” Is there nothing not for sale.”  And Workington MP Dale Camobell Savours accused the Government of “dropping the Union Jack and raising the Stars and Stripes over British industry once again.”

News that Leyland Vehicles and Land Rover were up for grabs had been expected. But MPs were surprised to learn that Austin Rover’s future was also in the melting pot. Mr Channon said these talks were exploratory.

Mr Channon gave a lengthy list of assurances he would be demanding. A high level of locally-produced components. The maintenance of a substantial level of exports.  The continuation of research and development investment In Britain. And Land Rover would have to retain a “distinctive British Identity “.

On the jobs front, Mr Channon said the Government would seek to make the future of workers ” more secure not less “.

Keith Adams

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