Commenting on British Leyland yesterday after opening a computing centre in Manchester, Mr Varley, Secretary for Industry, said he thought the organization and management of British Leyland was best left to the management of the company, and that they should report to the National Enterprise Board. The Government was just as interested in ensuring the viability of British Leyland. One thing we could not go on doing, he said, was losing production. We had lost about 20 per cent while our European competitors lost practically none at all.
The most likely area in which immediate capital savings can be made is internal-development spending on such projects as the new Mini planned for launching in 1978-79 and the new “O” series of overhead camshaft, alloy-headed engines. Work on these has reached an advanced stage, with a production date in 1977. The new Executive saloon, code-named ST1, is too far along the road for worthwhile capital cuts to be made. Pre-production runs have begun at the new Solihull factory.
There was a two hour stop- page on the Marina lines at Leyland’s car assembly plant at Cowley yesterday, less than 24 hours after appeals from Lord Ryder, chairman of the National Enterprise Board, and Mr Derek Whittaker, managing director of Leyland Cars, for fewer disputes and stoppages. Marina output was halted for two hours by a stoppage by 140 internal drivers in support of the complaints by one of their shop stewards, Mr Peter Boyles, over his omission from the list of candidates for the election of the seven deputy senior stewards for the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
Later Mr David Buckle, the union’s district secretary said Mr Boyles would be included on fresh ballot papers and that the elections would be held as soon as possible. Mr Boyles had complained that his nomination form had been lost, found and then lost again.