Dutch Company Favourite To Take-over Loss Maker
The Government was at the centre of a row last night over plans to sell off British Leyland Trucks to a Dutch firm. Ministers are reporting to have given the go-ahead for the sale of BL Trucks to DAF, with a possible 20,000 job losses. They are certain to face embarrassing queestions about the project in the Commons today.
Rumours have been rife for months and the State-owned lorry firm – which is reputedly losing £1 million a week – is to be sold off. But there is considerable nervousness in Government circles about the decision, which could involve writing off millions of pounds of Austin Rover debts to make the deal attractive.
Previous attempts to sell off the lorry making and Land-Rover division to General Motors of America had to be scrapped following furious apposition on all sides of the House. According to BBC TV news, the sale plan has been chosen from one of a series of options in the new corporate plan for British Leyland, drawn up chairman Graham Day.
The report has been kept under wraps since Christmas and the Cabinet is due lo discuss it this morning. DAF has a long-established cooperative association with Leyland and may be negotiating either a joint venture or a complete buy-out. Before the Cabinet gives the go-ahead, it may seek assurances about the future job prospects in the Lancashire-based lorry factory – now regarded as one of the most technically advanced in Europe.
Last night Alliance employment spokesman Malcolm Bruce claimed he had received leaked information about the proposed sale.
He said: ‘This decision has been made in the face of a strong alternative bid from the American firm Paccar, who already won the British Foden lorry concern.
“I understand it could lead to the loss of over 20,000 jobs as manufacturing is transferred to Holland over a five-year period.”
He claimed factories in Watford, Lancaster and Glasgow would be worst hit, “This would effectively mean the liquidation of Leyland Trucks and the destruction of our jobs and capability in this area,” he said.
”It seems that because of the outcry over previous proposals to sell to American companies, the Government has decided in favour of the European bidder. In this case however the decision seems to be against the best interests of both jobs and the British truck industry.”
Mr Bruce has tabled a Commons motion calling on the Government to reconsider its plans. He will demand a statement from Trade and Industry Secretary Paul Channon in the Commons. Union leaders at Leyland, Lancashire will today question management about the sell-off.
Last night a spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the report was pure speculation and claimed that no decision has yet been taken. Rover chairman Graham Day was not available last night because he was on a visit to Canada with his personal assistant on a “secret” project.