§ 9. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is now the aggregate cost to public funds of all subventions irrevocably committed to the De Lorean corporation; what is the current level of employment by the corporation; what is the ratio of the latter to the former; and what is his best estimate of compensation payable in the event of withdrawal of Her Majesty's Government's support.
§ Mr. Adam Butler
The Government's commitment to the DMC-12 project comprises grants of £28.5 million and loans of £20.7 million. The Northern Ireland Development Agency has subscribed £17.8 million in the form of participating preference share capital. De Lorean Motor Cars Ltd. currently employs about 1,030 people.
It would be misleading to relate the gross total of these figures, which include loans and share capital, to the present numbers employed as these are expected to double; whilst account must also be taken of the receipt by Government of royalties on cars sold.
The Government have informed the House that they will honour the commitment to the company which was entered into by the previous Goverment. The question of compensation does not arise.
My officials and the Northern Ireland Development Agency receive regular and detailed information on the company's financial position and are in regular contact with the company's management.
§ Mr. Bruce-Gardyne
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those details. We shall want to study them with care. May I congratulate my hon. Friend on resisting the latest financial blandishments by this American gentleman, so far? Has he noticed the American gentleman's plans to build another car plant in the South of Ireland? What plans do we have to scrutinise financial cross-fertilisation between Belfast and Shannon?
§ Mr. Butler
We must see whether the De Lorean companies establish themselves in Southern Ireland. I am anxious to see that the present exercise is successful. We regularly monitor the companies' financial affairs. We see monthly statements of one type or another, quarterly statements and the audited financial accounts.
§ Mr. Cryer
Will the Minister confirm that the Department has a majority of voting shares and therefore retains effective control? Does he accept that some degree of financial accountability is owed to the House? Therefore, will he ensure that parliamentary questions about such matters as the contract with Lotus Cars and the fees paid to directors are answered in the House, so that we can be confident that the project is going ahead with the minimum of reward to the directors and that they are not making a fat killing?
§ Mr. Butler
The Government do not have the majority of voting shares. NIDA's share is only in redeemable preference share capital. In addition, we have two nominees on the boards of the car company and the parent company in America so that we are able to keep a close scrutiny on what goes on. The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) never ceases to ask questions about this company. It is not right to disclose commercially confidential information.
§ Alan Clark
Since my hon. Friend, in common with any objective analyst, must now be discarding any notion that these cars will be built or sold commercially, will he assure the House that he thinks that the project has some merit as a job creation scheme?
§ Mr. Butler
Any company employing 1,000 people in Northern Ireland, with prospects of increasing the number to 1,400 in June, is well worth supporting. My hon. Friend mentioned the commercial nature of the exercise. I wish that he would come to Northern Ireland and see the plant. It is remarkable. It is turning out cars at the rate of between 20 and 25 a day and the first are expected to be shipped before the end of the month.