by BOB WRIGHT
THE British motor car industry is up against tremendous competition. There are three international companies in the centre of the industry plus British Leyland, which will be 95 per cent publicly owned under the new Government proposals. It is hoped that British Leyland under this scheme will inject a new lease of life into our motor manufacturing industry.
I believe that all trade unionists must react positively to all that happening. First, we must recognise that the multinational companies controlled from America will seek to establish their profit base in those areas which are most lucrative to the parent companies. Hence we see Chrysler producing its new model outside Britain, assembled in France, designed in Britain. We see Vauxhall General Motors developing a new model in Germany, with all that that means to the Vauxhall workers in Britain.
The Ford Motor Company has already established overseas the production of the Granada model, along with substantial component elements, thus endangering the jobs of the Ford workers here.
Each of these companies faces the ultimate challenge of Japanese production, heavily assisted in the post-war development of industries in Japan, and carrying very little of the social and economic burdens connected with defence expenditure which Britain and other countries have carried in post-war years. At the same time, they have been greatly helped by the injection of capital and use of preferences to ensure that Japan does not turn politically against the interests of. America and the Western Alliance.
When we examine the role of British Leyland, we are looking at the principal manufacturing base of a British-owned section of the industry. It is not always recognised that British Leyland represents, in total, some 750,000 jobs, spread over suppliers and manufacturing factories which are not all controlled and owned by British Leyland. We cannot allow those who call for free market forces to decide the future of such industries to have a free hand in their capital manipulations. The Government has, therefore, adopted, arising from the Ryder Report, which – was clearly influenced by trade union representations, a policy of retaining a viable constructive and competitive British owned motor industry.
The past three years have seen the erosion not only of our export capacity, which has been a very important part of our economy, but also of our home market at the expense of our home-based industries. The economy of the profit and market share evaluation is the policy of Bedlam.
I have always believed that a country that allows itself to become the dumping ground for other people’s production in areas where it can produce its own commodities can only be regarded as a country that is seeking its own destruction.
If we look at the comparable figures for the import and export balances of our motor car industry, we see that 68,400 more ears were imported in the period from January to August 1975, than in the same period of 1974. In the export field, we exported 15,350 fewer cars than in the same comparable period.
How long can Britain allow its industries to be eroded without introducing import preferences and controls against those who market in Britain and take so little from the stock of our own industries? Certainly barriers have been set up against British imports to their own countries.
Japan undoubtedly represents a country whose nationalism quite apart from legislation does not permit the free import of competitive goods where this threatens its own industries, but it has been able to build substantial markets in Britain at the expense of industries which have either been impaired or, in some cases, almost totally destroyed. We cannot allow this to happen to the motor car industry.
I believe, therefore, in the policy of fighting the international companies and demanding some control of their conduct, and in demanding that public capital being injected must be positively used to enhance employment and the capacity of those industries. We must not allow those who advocate the normal free-marketing policies to take their toll of employment in this country and, at the same time, to export capital in order to develop industries abroad which will compete with our own labour employment in Britain.
We must develop a concerted policy and campaign to defend our own industries and employment, and not allow the forces of the City to conduct the policies of the Labour Government.
Within British Leyland, we have established machinery in which the shop stewards, an behalf of all workers, will be participating not only in the development of the company, but in developing a philosophy based on a socialist concept that workers have the right to codetermination and to ensure that management at, their factory is carrying out policies which are designed to enhance employment, to develop effective use of manpower and resources and capital.
Public ownership and worker participation can succeed and I am confident that the machinery we have established will produce an accountability which will be a useful experiment in proving that workers will respond when they are given the opportunity and can see that the resources of the industry are being used in the best – interests of the workers and the British people generally.