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Leyland rides into a row

4 April 1979

By Gordon Ogilvie and David Jack

The wooing of Japan by British Leyland's bosses ran into a row last night. Labour MPs and trade union leaders hit out at the proposed link-up with Honda. But as the same time the move was given a cautious welcome by many Leyland workers and by the Tories. The aim of the talks, which are still going on between BL and Honda, is for Leyland toproduce under licence, a Honda-designed middle-range car.

It is in this area of the market that BL, represented by the Marina and Dolomite, is weakest. Labour MP Mr Martin Flannery said : "It should be remembered that, it was the Honda motor-cycle that virtually destroyed the British motor-cycle industry."

He and Mrs Renee Short called a Commons meeting of Labour members sponsored by the Transport and General Workers' Union. Mrs Short said : "This is a further erosion of our home car market and motor production."

But Tory industry spokesman Mr John Biffen said: "I believe the link will enhance the potential strength of BL and that is what is likely to preserve jobs."

Mr David Andrews, BL executive vice-chairman told the workforce- "Over the past year BL has said that some form of co-operative venture with another manufacturer was desirable because BL has far fewer international links than most major vehicle companies."

From Japan, Honda said: "Both companies have not yet reached the stage where they can announce the contents of their talks".

But it thought an agreement could be reached in one to two months. The shop floor reaction was : If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

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