By John Husband
British Leyland chief Lord Stokes last night made a scathing attack on “financial speculators and wheeler dealers” and on strikes.
The car boss said that industry had got a bad name partly because of these “in-and-out operators who are so busy buying and selling that they scarcely know what is inside the package.”
Speaking at a dinner in Birmingham he said industrialists “are all getting a little tired of being classified in the same category as wicked capitalists.
“The real villain of the piece is not industry but rather the financial speculators”.
He called them men who “have never in their lives dirtied their hands.”
Lord Stokes said it would make more sense if the City put money into industry instead of “office blocks, personal loans, mortgages for second homes and so on.”
He said industry which requires heavy investment should be given more encouragement “than the merchandising operations, property speculators, and other interests who take no real product risks. Furthermore, we have got to even out the imbalance or disparity which currently exists between the almost forgotten exporters or the import preventers , compared with some of the fringe operators.”
He urged the Government to consider imposing ” short term ” import controls to prevent a balance-of-payments crisis from ending the current boom. British Leyland has come under heavy pressure from foreign imports, which now take a quarter of the British car market.
This is three times as much as three years ago. Lord Stokes also attacked strikers. He said it was ridiculous that the taxpayer should be subsidising strikers, who took no notice of the problems of pensioners and the poor.
The greatest blow to national prosperity, he said, had been the excessive number of industrial disputes which had stopped production.
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