Labour backbenchers protested bitterly and the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, struggled to maintain order.
Mr Major was replying to Terry Davis, Labour MP for Hodge Hill, who asked him to tell Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, to 'get round the table with the Leyland DAF receiver, the management and the unions, in an attempt to save the van factory in Birmingham.'
The row came after a union delegation had stopped traffic around the Houses of Parliament with a convoy of vans and trucks sounding their horns in protest at the threat to jobs.
Robin Cook, Labour's trade spokesman, yesterday renewed his demand for ministers to intervene, saying key questions needed to be settled in the Netherlands if DAF jobs were to be saved in Britain. After meeting Dutch finance ministers on Monday, Mr Cook said he had raised with them:
Whether the Dutch company would release patents on new models to a British buyer;
Whether DAF would provide access to its European sales network for the British operation;
Whether the Albion plant in Glasgow would continue to provide axles for heavy truck production at Eindhoven.
John Lintger, the Dutch finance minister, had given 'a sympathetic hearing' to those issues, Mr Cook said. But 'Britain's prospects of getting the right answer to each of these questions would be much brighter if ministers were now to start pressing them'.
The Dutch government's decision to take shares in the company showed what could be done by a government with a clear industrial strategy.
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