Heseltine to set out vision for industry: Select committee to hear case for intervention

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Indy Politics
MICHAEL HESELTINE is planning to use a hearing of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry today to set out his vision for industrial intervention by the Government.

The President of the Board of Trade finalised the text of a statement to the committee at a meeting with colleagues at the Department of Trade and Industry. It will update the industrial strategy he set out in his book, Where There's a Will, in 1987.

Mr Heseltine's statement was intended to be a reply to his critics, who have poured scorn on his Conservative conference pledge last year to intervene 'before breakfast, before lunch, before tea, and before dinner . . .'

But it will be truncated. Before the hearing, he asked the permission of the Labour chairman, Dick Caborn, to submit a statement on his thoughts about the DTI's role. Mr Caborn, a no- nonsense Yorkshireman, replied: 'Yes, but keep it short.'

Mr Caborn, who campaigned for a rescue of the pits that Mr Heseltine announced would be closed, is not convinced of the Secretary of State's commitment to intervention.

In his book, published after he had walked out of the Thatcher Cabinet, Mr Heseltine said it was 'indefensible' that the Government had no single minister responsible for its relations with industry. He also pointed at the need for pension funds to invest in British industry - a policy recently embraced by the Labour spokesman, Robin Cook.

In spite of the damage Mr Heseltine sustained over the pit closure debacle, his friends say he has 'dusted himself down, and bounced back'. He is in for a gruelling cross-examination and will make it clear his strategy does not mean a return to the 1970s Labour policy of rescuing 'lame ducks' or picking winners.

He is hoping the rescue of Leyland DAF in a management buyout will vindicate his refusal to bow to demands for a Government lifeline.